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From one extreme to the other

by Jamie Atwell, garden volunteer

Only a few short weeks ago we were all enduring snow and arctic temperatures. Subsequent to that, we were treated to a period of unending grey cloud and lots of lovely rain. Suddenly “well-apparelled April on the heel of limping winter treads”. Temperatures sky rocketed – on the 19 April, the thermometer in the vinery couldn’t cope and the reading was ‘off the scale’! The previous day, I and my two co-volunteers were busy watering the seedlings in both the vinery and in the cold frames outside. Before starting, we were advised to let the taps in the vinery run for a few minutes before filling our watering cans (the pipework is directly exposed to the sun). I was somewhat cynical about this – but was proved to be entirely wrong. On first switching on the taps, the water, whilst not steaming, would have been far too hot for a poor plant to cope with.

Despite the weather, the gardens coped extremely well and are looking beautiful at present. The wisterias in both the walled garden and on the south side of the Palace have burst now into bloom and has lived up to its promise of a spectacular display this year. I’m also looking forward to seeing the echiums in the knot garden in flower before too long. During the worst of the winter weather they were well wrapped up to protect them from frost, and had a rather eerie appearance – to my mind they looked like faintly sinister beings from an episode of Doctor Who!

The warmer weather also seems to have galvanised Edmund the Cat (our resident head of pest control) into action – the other day he caught a mouse! Whether this was his first success I’m not entirely sure (I thought he had tea parties with our local rodents myself). However, he’s certainly been putting on airs since his achievement – looking down his nose at us mere humans, as if enquire what it is that we’ve actually done all day!

What I can report is that in addition to all the hard work by head gardener Lucy Hart and her full-time team, together with assistance from the volunteers, our three wonderful garden apprentices have all recently passed their latest round of RHS with flying colours. This involves hours of study, after working full-time throughout the day here. They deserve the biggest congratulations!

Fingers are firmly crossed the elements will be kind to us in the next few weeks. Whatever lies in store, the gardens are really coming to life now and are well worth a visit.