by Jamie Atwell, garden volunteer
After the delights of the ‘sweet spring showers’ at the beginning of the month, the weather finally seems to be settling into a more consistent pattern – lots of rain and sunshine and, most importantly, frost-free nights. This more benign regime is clearly working its magic in the garden (along with the help of head gardener Lucy Hart and her team). Plants are bursting into life and, all of a sudden, there is a cornucopia of items for sale at the Barrow in the Walled Garden – tomato plants, cucumber plants and bedding plants. Along with this we have the first offerings of healthy, organic produce from the vegetable garden – rhubarb, purple sprouting broccoli and asparagus (I’ve definitely got my eye on the latter).
The stars of the show at present are the tall spikes of joy in the knot garden – Echium pininana. Sown in summer 2016 and then nurtured by the gardeners and volunteers since. They have made it through the very low winter temperatures (down to -5.5 degrees centigrade) back in March, where we protected them with fleece. We are finally reaping the rewards of their glorious flowers, as too are our bees and other pollinating insects. Once flowering is over they will drop their seeds, the mother plant will die and they will start flowering all over again in two years time.
I’m lucky enough to be a member of the ‘Wednesday Team’, which I joined around three years ago. Since the day I started I can definitely say that becoming a Gardening Volunteer is one of the best things I have ever done – a marvellous and welcoming group of people (both full-time and volunteers), fresh air and exercise, plus a stratospheric improvement in my horticultural knowledge (starting from a low base, admittedly). One of the added inducements of working on a Wednesday is that it has become something of a tradition (though definitely not compulsory) for volunteers to bring in biscuits or treats for all to enjoy. During the last few weeks we’ve had the delight of biscuits from Bhutan and manoushe (a tasty flatbread) from Lebanon. Guess where some of my co-workers have just been on holiday! The only downside for aspiring volunteers is that, as mentioned above, it will mean working alongside me! (Joking…)