A big feature of my month gone has been dominated by a spread sheet, not the most exciting thing to captivate a reader who probably wants to hear of the goings on in a National Trust garden but accurate nonetheless. This is however not your ordinary spread sheet. It seems at times, as if the Gimsons knew that one day the National Trust would acquire their beloved home and gardens, as from 1955 (and I can say that with some certainty) with the acquisition of a Wisteria sinensis, a present from “Angela” celebrating the birth of Sally, planted in the “Cottage border” Anne and Donald’s overwhelming urge to record kicked in.
This plant acts as the first of 1870 plants sourced, planted and recorded in their time at Stoneywell, records we’re now in the fortunate but slightly daunting position of having… and making sense of. An enormous thanks goes to Jayne a garden volunteer who will have possibly lost days typing up the copies of alphabetically hand written lists largely written by Anne; “head gardener” (according to Donald; “head woodsman”), that Roger Gimson their son offered us in the early days of acquisition. They’ve set a precedent for good practice that can’t be ignored. Not only does the list offer much needed help in identifying the plants that have survived of the 1870 (although still not easy I should add, even the RHS don’t seem to have records of some of the plants it seems!) but it will also act as the foundations of our own listings to be added to and updated much in the same spirit as Anne and Donald.
The National Trust after all don’t just acquire the physical form of these special places, they acquire their spirit as well and it’s through the knowledge of these 1870 plants, each with their own story of trips to see family in Aylsbury, family holidays in Cornwall visiting countless gardens and nurseries along the way, or shared cuttings with the neighbours, that means not only are we somewhere close to accurately representing that spirit when you visit us, but importantly dictates how we continue to work way into the future.
When I haven’t been deciphering records on the RHS website me and the team have spent much of the last few weeks on the more essential pruning, the very same Wisteria from 1955 continues to romp away and has had a bit of a taming, as have the apple trees in our orchard, and currant bushes in the kitchen garden. A kitchen garden that’s looking pretty sharp even if I say so myself thanks to the team and ready for a good year of slug free growth… wishful thinking perhaps. At Stoneywell you always have to put a positive slant on things and perhaps a bad year for slugs will guarantee a good year for slow worms which should be just about stirring at this time of year along with… the bats, the newts, the nesting birds, the carpet of bluebells, the alive of the 1870 plants including countless Rhododendrons and hopefully you’re interest if you made it past the spreadsheet opening line.
See you soon?