Allium Mount Everest waiting to be planted out in the raised bed in the Italian Garden. White, 1 metre high, pompom-like flowers.
This photo sums up what three of us were doing today. I think this is one of the most exciting jobs in Mount Stewart. Planting out plants that we have helped raise in the nursery. These alliums had been planted in tall pots in a very sandy mixture and are very healthy. We had been told that there were a few plants to be planted out but when we got to the Dodo Terrace word had obviously got out that there were extra ‘planting people’ at work and every time we got one lot planted and thought we might get a bit of a lean on the spade another lot appeared. I don’t know how many times the trailer was driven up to the nursery but we got hundreds of plants in. (OK, Alan, I know I exaggerate a bit).
We got a system going where one person dug the hole, another forked in a forkful of manure and sprinkled two forkfuls around the filling-in soil and the third one planted the plant. We whizzed through it. Plants incuded Lupin Nobel Maiden (white), Calceolaria ‘Hybrid’, Hedychium Villosum v tenuiflorum (white fragrant), Myosotidium Hortensia (blue), Fuschia Hawkshead (white) and Onarpogium cynera (thistle). There were some special climbers – 1 Sollya Heterophylla (Bluebell creeper, on Dodo Terrace) 1 Decumaria Barbara (evergreen climber, small white flowers, Dodo Terrace) and 2 Lophosoria Quadripinnata (on Dodo, specimen tree ferns from Kell’s Bay in Killarney). We got totally soaked as it rained all morning but steamed dry in the afternoon sun. Happy Days.
Sarah Sharp at her farewell party in Mount Stewart
After five years with the events team in Mount Stewart, Sarah has been promoted to Assistant Visitor Services Manager at Castle Ward. Sarah is much loved by all her friends at Mount Stewart and she brings fun, joy and laughter into everything she does, as you can see from her smiling face. Her many friends and contacts in the National Trust came to say cheerio and wish her luck. Even though we were all very sad she managed to make us laugh.
She will be hitting the ground running at Castle Ward as one of the first projects she will be involved in is a concert by Van Morrison on 26 May. We will miss her and just hope she comes to visit often.
The turfing in the Italian Garden had gone according to plan for the last few weeks with perfect weather. Then, with just one corner to finish, rolls of grass at the ready, the rain came on Tuesday night. Sam Thompson, Contractor, was not a happy man when rain stopped play.
Nursery work today. Cleaning up hundreds of plants in the poly tunnel, where they had been overwintered, taking off moss and dead leaves. Some of these were moved into the Shade House which allows all rain through, 50% shade and 50% breeze. Some are being kept in the poly tunnel until all danger of frost is gone. The space made was filled up with seedlings from the heated greenhouse which were being potted on to 3 litre pots in the potting shed. So there was great team work, dashing from one place to another, with everyone to her own job. I think Alan was quite impressed with all the work we got done, but then he does have a way with words.
Erythronium. In the Lily Wood. I think it is Erythronium tuolumnense. If it’s not, I’m sure the Plant Police will soon let me know.
Lovely to be working in the warm sun in the Lily Wood. The usual Spring clean of one of the large beds, trying not to step on the bluebells and hundreds of bulbs just showing above the ground. We have a new volunteer, Ruth, who LOVES digging so she got a great welcome from Team Wednesday. She spent all afternoon digging out barrow loads of Ground Elder. Welcome, Ruth.
I have been trying, for years, to get a good photograph of one of our red squirrels, after all Mount Stewart is a Red Squirrel sanctuary. There are lots to be seen but are so quick that it is almost impossible to get a good picture. William, one of Mount Stewart’s gardeners, brought me to a clearing in the woods (that sounds like an opening line to a murder story) where squirrels feed quite tamely on nuts and seeds and don’t seem to mind people being around. I sat on a log for an hour in the sun, camera poised, but no squirrels. So back to the drawing board. Maybe it will need an early morning start, but I will get one eventually.
When I heard the plans for the complete re-turfing of the Italian Garden I was expecting a very disrupted garden. But as you can see everything was done very neatly with the minimum of disruption. It is such a big job that an external contractor, Sam Thompson, was brought in. All the turf has now been removed and stacked away for compost and most of the ground has been levelled. Drains have been put in with soak-aways going into the Peace Garden and the Lily Wood and on down to the stream. Pop-up sprinklers have been put in as the grass can get very dry with so many visitors. So come torrential rain or scorching sun the Italian Garden will be well covered.
It is going to take about two weeks to lay all the turf, all 2,800 sq metres of it. When it is finished it will be rolled, after a few days, to smooth out any bumps in the ground. Knowing Sam there won’t be a single bump to smooth out. It will take three to four weeks to settle and for the roots to take before visitors will be able to walk around. It is fascinating to watch experts at work and visitors can see what is going on from the Dodo Terrace, the Spanish Garden and the Lily Wood. Well worth a wander around.
Rhododendron ‘Shilsonii Group’
After work I took a walk around the lake and spotted this rhododendron shimmering in the sun.
This was the first team day for nearly two years. This one was organized by Jonathan and was different from the usual one. We started off with a very informative and interesting 45 minute tour and talk with Neil, our Head Gardener. He told us about the plans and projects, present and future, for the gardens (I will have to do a separate diary on this soon). Twenty people, gardeners, Steps to Work and volunteers then started working in the Spanish Garden. Jonathan had made out a list of things to be done (in other words everything). Pruning Paeonia, lifting Miscanthus, Kirengeshoma and Hosta, manuring ground, dividing and replanting. Lifting and dividing Arundo donax, replanting and mulching. Cutting back Mentha and Erysimum. Lifting sick Schefflera, mulching Casita beds, tidying Kniphofia, pruning Hydrangea. Preparing planting station for Phygelius, cleaning cobbles, sweeping down steps and tidying up all the beds. We were given specific instructions for all the jobs but could move around from one to the other and so work with other volunteers, which is one of the purposes of the exercise. This worked very well.
Spanish Garden when we had finished
It was amazing how much work 20 people got through. Usually we are split up into 3 or 4 teams but this time we all worked in the same place. It didn’t seem like hard work as there was great chat and fun (and a bit of groaning) going on at the same time.
We had a cordon bleu lunch provided by everyone. We all made a bit of an effort so it wasn’t just doorstep sandwiches and an apple. Jon Kerr, Property Manager, joined us for lunch and said appreciative things about the volunteers and how Mount Stewart couldn’t manage without us. We all know how precious we are but it is something we do like to hear repeated again and again.
No rest yet, though, so we ended up in the Spanish Garden again to finish off the work. We got all the jobs on Jonathan’s (very long) list finished. Jonathan put a lot of thought and work into organizing this very successful volunteers team day and it was appreciated by us all. So thank you Jonathan. We are hoping to hold him to his idea that we should do this every six months.