Gardener's ramblings: April

Anna Tolfree, Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree Senior Gardener
Published : 17 Apr 2019

It's been a busy start to year for the gardens and park team at Stowe. In April's blog, Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree reflects upon new beginnings for both the garden and herself this spring.

Last week truly felt like spring had definitely arrived. The sun was out, warming on my back and as I worked I felt I could almost see the plants pushing through the soil as I watched them, yet as I write this now it couldn’t be more different. The rain is hitting the window and it’s turned quite cold again….welcome to April. This is not uncommon for April as we know, but as gardeners we’re still hopeful that the warm weather will last so we can get out into the garden and start all those jobs that need doing. I’m grateful for the rain today as it’s been so dry over the last few months and this will give all the newly planted up areas of the garden a well needed soak.

The snakeshead fritillaries are blooming in spring after being planted along Gurnet's Walk for the Big Bulb Plan in autumn 2018.
A row of purple spotted flowers the dangle and droop are in bloom along a grassy verge next to a path with a Grecian Temple at the End.
The snakeshead fritillaries are blooming in spring after being planted along Gurnet's Walk for the Big Bulb Plan in autumn 2018.

We’ve been busy at Stowe over the winter months, not just with our usual tasks but also carrying on our restoration of the garden and surrounding parkland. Many areas such as Hawkwell Field have had more trees added to enhance the space whilst framing views that are already there, plants have been added to areas around new statues to provide an important backdrop (especially when viewed from further away) in the Grecian Valley and also in the Elysian Fields with the newly installed Marquis Urn before also finishing off restored areas such as the Labyrinth. 

The Marquess Urn sits within a tranquil glade in the Elysian Fields at Stowe
A white urn with two handles stands in a glade at National Trust Stowe. The urn is large and is inscribed with dedications to the Marquess of Buckingham
The Marquess Urn sits within a tranquil glade in the Elysian Fields at Stowe

One of the areas that have changed that visitors might not think of as being looked after in the same way is our car park, more specifically our overflow car park; this is thanks to our ranger team. Our conservation ideals and restoration views are still as important here as everywhere else and so instead of putting up fencing to show the rows and spacing in the car park, we’ve used fruit trees to show the way. Not only will the trees be good for wildlife but they were planted using the help of many volunteers and local community groups. This is also part of the National Trust’s wider view of forming important relationships with the community around us and making them aware how important conservation and our countryside is. It also provides a great connection with the local community and our property.

The overflow car park at Stowe has been planted with an abundance of fruit trees to line the rows.
A green field with rows of apple trees planted
The overflow car park at Stowe has been planted with an abundance of fruit trees to line the rows.

Connection with the outdoors in general is very important for our mental well-being as I think more and more people are becoming aware of in our increasingly hectic lives. I personally have found this very important over the last year. I have had to take time away from the garden that I love because I was diagnosed with cancer and initially struggled with this as it has always felt such a lovely calming place and to not be able to be there when I needed it the most was difficult. I have been lucky in that I was able to carry on at work throughout my chemotherapy on reduced hours and this helped immensely with my mental health. It enabled me to forget what I was going through for those precious hours each week.

Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree working in the gardens at Stowe
A lady wearing protective equipment stands net to machinery at Stowe
Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree working in the gardens at Stowe

Now I’ve finished the treatment, the garden is helping me again to leave it all behind and like spring start again and build my strength back up to where I was before. That’s what I love about spring - it feels like a new beginning, a new garden almost as it starts to wake up after winter. I can’t express to you how much I urge you get out there and enjoy being outdoors and come and see the work we have been doing around Stowe. See you soon….

Happy Gardening