A moment of calm ...

The orchard at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

I feel a moment of calm descended on the garden at Stoneywell in August, perhaps more so than ever this year after the weather we’ve had since... January frankly. I’ll attempt to not over blow things to biblical proportions but the rain has been very welcome as I’m sure any keen gardener has found throughout the land. Out the other side, we seem to have survived the dry reasonably intact.

We certainly took a few hits beforehand though. The most visible damage has been a brittle Magnolia and a couple of rhododendrons in the tennis court that while we managed to keep alive I’m sure will be looking rather different in stature for a few years as they recover and we remove the dead.  The most dramatic effects however were seen on the heath with the bilberry turning an incredible rust like brown.  Effects here I feel may be seen for some years to come but there’s certainly plenty of good healthy stuff to offer as a contrast and it all adds to the story of the place and provides good cover still for the wildlife in the garden over the winter months.  We’ll reassess in the spring most likely on that one.  It’s a reminder that while we’re fortunate to play our part in looking after these places for ever, for everyone it doesn’t mean that our outdoor spaces are to stay exactly the same, sometimes we’re just not in charge!

A white magnolia in flower when in bloom
A white magnolia in flower in May
A white magnolia in flower when in bloom

August is potentially not the showiest of months for us at Stoneywell, but it’s certainly been kept very much alive by kids enjoying our holiday trail and a steady stream of produce coming out the vegetable garden gates.  If you’ve timed it well and come on a Tuesday or Wednesday perhaps you’ll have sampled it.  Potatoes aside we managed to cope with the conditions reasonably well thanks in large part to our team of waterers, and the fact that I’m not crying over stunted potatoes shows we’ve made significant strides in the vegetable garden, in earlier years it was about the only crop we could rely on!

Growing vegetables in the walled garden
STWS Kitchen Garden June
Growing vegetables in the walled garden

And then there’s the grass... well it wouldn’t be a newsletter without a mention and I would say our efforts were not in vain.  Considering we’ve not had to deal with anything like the conditions we’ve faced this year I have to feel relatively pleased.  I think the one thing I notice in particular is that where it’s good it’s remarkably resilient turf, we just need to find a way of replicating and establishing it throughout the garden, whilst still allowing as much access as possible in the meantime, now that’s the real challenge.

Which brings us nicely into the weeks ahead and September.  I’m confident for perfect growing conditions of course.  I’d have reason to be hesitant to sow grass seed as we always seem to enter the driest something or other since records began, but third time lucky I’m sure.  I think we could dare to plant a couple of things that have been sat in pots for too long and perhaps we’ll start giving consideration as to whether we’ve a few things to split or move around. 

Gardener Joe leads a tour
STWS garden tour with Joe
Gardener Joe leads a tour

Jeanette, our volunteer who puts together the plant highlight table in the stable yard,  will find herself suddenly spoilt for choice, with some fantastic berry displays from our rowans, gelder rose and choke berry to name but a few. The Cornus kousa after amazing flower displays are chocker blocker with their strawberry like fruits, we’ll have lots of Hesperantha through the next few months, just about going all the way to spring, our Oxydendrum arboreum is looking more and more splendid every year as it continues to grow and put on its feathery white flowers, our panicled hydrangeas are towering above most things, the Persicaria vacciniifolia spreading across the tennis court wall is nearing its best moment... I could go on and all this before we even consider the changing colour of any leaf but let’s cling onto whatever summer we have left which despite the moaning I’d quite like back.