New tools!

Wednesday 16 April 2014

 This may look quite ordinary but gosh what excitement.   This is the garden volunteers’ new stash of shiny, sharp tools essential for our perfectionist gardening.   Jonathan has been playing this close to his chest and we had no idea it was happening today.   We have edging shears, forks, spades, wheelbarrows, brushes (soft and hard!), rakes, and a bucket with trowel, fork and scratcher for each volunteer, all shiny and sparkly.    We are each responsible for any tools we take out and for washing all the tools before returning them.   It was nearly a shame to get them all dirty.


This may look quite ordinary but gosh what excitement. This is the garden volunteers’ new stash of shiny, sharp tools essential for our perfectionist gardening. Jonathan has been playing this close to his chest and we had no idea it was happening today. We have edging shears, forks, spades, wheelbarrows, brushes (soft and hard!), rakes, and a bucket with trowel, fork and scratcher for each volunteer, all shiny and sparkly. We are each responsible for any tools we take out and for washing all the tools before returning them. It was nearly a shame to get them all dirty.

However, we overcame this and used nearly all of the tools in the Italian Garden. The edging shears were a dream and there are sharp, straight lines around all the parterres (worth having a look at), hand forks and trowels used to clear weeds around the little hedges surrounding the parterres and scratchers used to clear up the whole lot. Spades and forks used for planting plants in the parterres, I think the only things not used were the brushes. Smooth running wheelbarrows with no squeaking. Very exciting day. Thanks to Jonathan for looking after us and getting all this amazing gear. We are very spoilt.

Jill

Squeak squeak

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Cleaning the cobbles on the South Terrace (the best tool for this is the gadget used to take stones out of horses’ hooves). The design on the cobbles is a dragon, the motto of the family being Metuenda Corolla Dragonis - Who will fear the dragon’s breath (roughly translated). The dragon can also be seen on the big pots on the Terrace. To see the design properly it would have to be photographed from the roof but I was spared this excitement by Health and Safety. Thanks to Winsome Linton for information on Terrace.

Cleaning the cobbles on the South Terrace (the best tool for this is the gadget used to take stones out of horses’ hooves). The design on the cobbles is a dragon, the motto of the family being Metuenda Corolla Dragonis – Who will fear the dragon’s breath (roughly translated). The dragon can also be seen on the big pots on the Terrace.To see the design properly it would have to be photographed from the roof but I was spared this excitement by Health and Safety.

Thanks to Winsome Linton for information on Terrace.

Twenty Millenium effuses aureum (pale green) were planted in the Sunk Garden, five on each corner of the beds. A lot of the tulips in the beds had been rooted up and eaten by mice but luckily Alan had foreseen this and had planted up pots of the same tulips in the nursery and these pots were sunk into the beds where the bare patches showed up.

Jill

Breaking records!

Wednesday 19 March 2014

 Fourteen volunteers today, a record for Mount Stewart. Jonathan didn’t panic. Does this mean we might get the odd bit of a Zzzzzzzz behind a tree in the sun or will we be expected to get lots more work done? Mmmmm…


Fourteen volunteers today, a record for Mount Stewart. Jonathan didn’t panic. Does this mean we might get the odd bit of a Zzzzzzzz behind a tree in the sun or will we be expected to get lots more work done? Mmmmm…

Endless work in the Shamrock Garden and the Lily Wood. Working in the bamboo bed, thinning out bamboos, stripping leaves from the straightest ones and storing for future use. Clearing beds trying not to step on the thousands of bulbs coming up, cutting down herbaceous plants, raking leaves and doing all the spring-cleaning necessary at this time of the year. Fourteen people can get an enormous amount of work done, a great buzz of activity with laden wheelbarrows being brought to the dump for recycling. Lovely warm spring day, no coats.

Nursery day next Wednesday. How will fourteen people fit into the nursery? Alan won’t panic.

Jill

Spring has nearly sprung!

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Michael King, Stuart Howard and Eddie Hunter. Three new, very welcome, Wednesday volunteers.

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.

Jill

Welcome our new recruits

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

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.

Jill

New year, new volunteers

Saturday 25 January 2014

Volunteer Recruitment Day at Mount Stewart

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.

Jill

Annnddd….lift!

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Beam being replaced on pergola at Sunk Garden (c) Jill Russell


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?

Jill