It might have been a while since the last gardeners’ blog, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy!

As with anything like this it takes a little bit of time to get the words and the photos together, so I don’t think I’m going to be making any promises for doing a monthly update, but I will do my absolute best to try and illustrate regularly exactly what the garden team get up to – to put it plainly, our feet don’t touch the ground! There have been many changes in the last 18 months and no prizes for guessing the ‘c’ word that has brought about these changes. Some being good, necessary and possibly overdue whereas others have been startling, and quite a revelation to us. 

For instance, we’ve reduced our opening days to Wednesday to Sunday for much of the year (although this will vary during school holidays). This has meant that we have been able to operate more efficiently to make up for the financial losses we incurred during lockdown.  We have made good use of our Mondays and Tuesdays for noisy and heavy gardening work, a very valuable commodity in our eyes.

With July well and truly underway it’s full steam ahead in every area of the Garden.

The Exedra and Plunge Pool flower beds are fit to bursting with an array of different colours and scents, and everyday we notice something new that’s decided to flower for us. From Foxgloves to Ricinus, Sweet William to Cerinthe major, the colours and textures are fantastic. The Astrantia and Alchemilla have been doing especially well this year, creating displays which are certainly not to be missed. 

The Kitchen Garden (my favourite place to be) is starting to fill with lines of nutritious and sustaining vegetables and with the Café now offering a delicious “summer salad soul bowl” and a “soup of the day” at lunchtime we’ve been able to start doing a twice weekly pick of whatever we’ve got ready. I’m thrilled to be able to tell you that as well as courgettes and a wide assortment of herbs, we’ve been able to add carrots and beetroot and kale to the delivery which has in turn been carefully and creatively added to our Cafe’s new range of culinary treats.

What I’m particularly excited about in the Kitchen Garden are our hop poles. In the last handful of weeks our hops have grown from new shoots to towering vines, creating two fantastic teepees giving height and structure to the vegetable garden. Last year these very hops created enough harvest that we were able to employ a local brewery to make our very first Rococo ale! Richard the brewer from The Fresh Standard Brew Co did a fantastic job and created just over 400 bottles of Red House Amber Ale. I’m sorry to say that this is no longer available in our Shop as they sold very quickly. This year we hope to double that quantity. Cheers!

Just below the Kitchen Garden and across the Bowling Green you will find the Swan Pond. This has become home to a sweet little family of moorhens which we coo over whenever we get the chance. Their tiny little bundles of fluffy joy can regularly be seen scooting across the surface of the pond weed having a grand old time. But about this pondweed… 

…It’s almost an entire blanket now and so we’ve hatched a new plan. Fish! Grass Carp to be precise – 50 of the little vegetarian wonders. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to rid their world (our Swan Pond) of the evil conquerer Pond Weed. Tiny mouthful by tiny mouthful. We’re still waiting to see any difference, but rest assured I’ll update you all on here as soon as we do. 

Here they are, getting the keys to their new home…

With that ‘c’ word becoming more and more a thing of the past (touch wood everywhere & then sanitise hands) we have been able to start hosting our events again. Weddings, outdoor theatre and light shows are on the horizon with no time for dilly dallying. 

With bunting on the Bowling Green and a bride on the Red House vista aisle, the start of the month saw our first wedding of the season and it was a beauty. 

And in preparation for our very first Light Show (Midsummer Lights) we have mown our meadow and orchard ready for picnickers. It’s a July job for the Garden team which requires the hire of an incredibly heavy and even more noisy flail mower. Apologies to any readers out there that managed to visit the Garden on this noisy day. I can absolutely assure you that the gardeners would rather a bit of peace and quiet too, but it was necessary.  

Before we mowed, we spent half an hour or so collecting the seed from the Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) that grows in these areas. This was to disperse the seed a little further into the areas that still have thick grass. More Yellow Rattle to suppress the thick grass means less thick grass and more wild flowers. On a side note: it also means less thick grass to cut, rake and collect by the gardeners – a win win situation, I’m sure you’ll agree. 

 One of the changes I mentioned earlier that seems to have naturally formed is the destiny of our Garden produce. As well supplying our Cafe with salad and vegetables for the new menu, we have also been trying our hand at jams and preserves. Last autumn included a delicious chutney, plum jam and beetroot relish. But this year we’ve branched out a little further. With the help of a very local ice cream company, Yoke House, we now offer ice creams in our cafe made using local ingredients along with our very own produce. So far these include a delicious honey ice cream and sensational rhubarb ice cream, but we also hope to add raspberry, black currant and gooseberry to the menu as the season changes and the fruits are harvested. 

We’ve also recently made our very first batch of elderflower cordial which has just been labelled and is now on sale in our shop. All good things, I hope you will agree. 

Well, that’s it for now, back to the Garden.  Those flowers won’t dead-head themselves!