Wednesday 19 February 2014
Michael King, Stuart Howard and Eddie Hunter. Three new, very welcome, Wednesday volunteers.
I think Wilf is very pleased to have some more male colleagues, as he was the only one among nine women volunteers on Wednesdays. I have a suspicion that there will be some male/female competition and banter in the future.
We were working along the top of the lake today, a beautiful, sunny, warm day with hundreds of birds on the lake. The main attraction with the children on half term was the two adult swans with their three fully-grown cygnets. The cygnets haven’t lost their brown colouring but are a big as their parents. I wonder what will happen when the parents have a new family in the early summer. Usually the cygnets have gone at this stage.
General end of winter work, cutting down ferns, taking out dead formium leaves, cleaning out grasses, picking up fallen branches and hoping we weren’t going to slip into the lake. Bulbs coming up everywhere, early cherry trees coming into blossom, rhododendrons flowering, what a place to be working on a Spring day.
Wednesday 5th February 2014
These willow plant supports were made by Lisa with young, very pliable willow shoots. In the Italian Garden to support the Peonies
We have three new, very welcome, Wednesday volunteers, Michael, Eddy and Stuart. We were all clearing barrow-loads of storm debris from the beds around reception and the Mairi Garden and I remarked that it was great to have more men to help us lift the very heavy barrows onto the trailer (big, big mistake, why did I say that?). The response from one of the new recruits, who shall be nameless, was that he would wear a skirt next week.
In the nursery we were potting on 550 cuttings of Verbena superbena Carmine Red. The Verbenas had been bought in last year as plugs, potted on and planted in the Red Hand for the summer (a fabulous display). Soft wood nodal cuttings were taken in Oct and overwintered in the greenhouse, minimum temp 9 degrees. These have now been potted on to 1 litre pots and put back into the greenhouse ready for planting out again in the Red Hand when all danger of frost is gone.
Saturday 25 January 2014
Volunteer Recruitment Day at Mount Stewart
There was a great response today in spite of the heavy rain. People were obviously coming down mainly for the recruitment day rather than just visiting the gardens. There were stands for every aspect of Mount Stewart, the gardens, house, restaurant, shop, events, admin, reception, education and conservation.
There is something to suit everyone, either in doors or out in the Gardens. It means becoming part of a friendly and dedicated team, meeting people from all walks of life, making new friends, enjoying new experiences and learning something new every day.
As a garden volunteer I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t want to join in the experience of working with wonderful, highly qualified gardeners who are very generous with their knowledge and expertise, in one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful gardens. We all just love it.
Interested on becoming a volunteer at Mount Stewart? Visit our website to find out how you can get involved.
Wednesday 22 January 2014
Beam being replaced on pergola at Sunk Garden
About 40% of the beams are being replaced on the pergola. It is thought that this Douglas Fir pergola was originally erected in the late 1970s and the same wood is now being used to replace. A hoist, like a manual fork-lift, is being used to lift the beam off and replace with new one. It is a very time-consuming, heavy job and will take about two weeks to finish. The new wood contrasts with the old but it won’t take long to blend in when it weathers a bit and the climbers cover it.
All the climbers are being untied, pruned and tied up again. This might have been done a bit later but it made sense to do everything at the same time.
Working in the nursery dividing and potting on hundreds of festuca ovina glauca (blue grass, originally potted on from plugs). Then we worked outside in the sun cutting back and cleaning up Aquilegia longissima, which had been grown from seed, cutting back Helleborus orientalis down to the new growth, and the same with Lathyrus vernus (everlasting sweet pea). We had lunch in the sun and got a bit of a tan without the hassle of airports and flights. January in beautiful Mount Stewart, working with plants and lunching in the sun, plus a tan. What about that then?
Wednesday 11 December 2013
Sometimes it is difficult to get people to pose for photographs but Maureen and Florence had no such inhibitions. I think the antlers went to their heads. Maureen and Florence have been volunteers in the Shop for ten years and this is a gardening volunteers stop every Wednesday lunch time to see what delights they have to sell us. We think they just sit in the warm all day drinking tea and they think we are just wandering around the beautiful gardens admiring the plants all day.
Hundreds of Dianthus barbatus (biennials) were planted around the Reception area. Earlier this year half of these plugs had been potted on into 3 inch pots and the other half planted out in open ground in the old fashioned way. The ones planted outside were about twice as big as the potted ones so that is the way they will be done next year even though there is a lot more work involved with continuous weeding. It will be interesting to see if the potted ones catch up with the ‘free range’ ones.
Wednesday 27 November 2013
Agapanthus seed heads in the Sunk Garden. These are as stunning as when they were in flower.
The Red Hand has been planted up with Cheiranthus Vulcan, crimson, and two different red tulips – Tulip praestans Bloemenlust and Unicum. These were all placed very precisely by Louise, which can take hours of work and volunteers helped to plant them. I am always tempted to plant a white tulip at the tip of each finger of the Hand to see what it would look like with finger-nails but this should not be the thinking of a Mount Stewart garden volunteer. Jonathan, always determined that we won’t get bored, had various jobs lined up. Working on the West Terrace we were digging hundreds of shoots from the four bay trees, cutting down all the summer growth of perennials on the pergola, raking leaves, weeding and generally giving it all it’s winter clear out. Then up to the nursery to prune about 60 rose bushes which had been donated by the company filming Dracula in the Spanish Garden in the summer. This is a random mix of very healthy roses so it is quite difficult to decide where to plant them when the colour is unknown.
A very mild no-coat day with lots of visitors making the most of a dry day.
Wednesday 13 November 2013
Jonathan and Alan directing operations in the Lily Wood
This may not be the prettiest of photos (no I don’t mean Jonathan and Alan) but it is all part of vital work that goes on behind the scenes at Mount Stewart. A new, additional drainage system is being installed in the Lily Wood, starting at the Memorial Glade, so it is all hands on deck (the volunteers were not asked to join in and we didn’t argue). New drains had been made in the lower part of the Lily Wood in 2011 and this new system will connect up with it and hopefully that will solve all the problems.
The water drains down the hill, into the Lily Wood and up out of the ground. The drains are now blocked up with roots, silt and general debris, the last time this had been cleared was probably in the 1980’s. An 18” trench is being dug, then the drainage pipes will go in and the trench filled in with clean 1” stones and the sods replaced. It is an enormous job but the Lily Wood is always damp even in fine weather so this will make it more pleasant for visitors to walk around.