Sunday, 24 April 2011

Invisible Gardener

Disgraceful I know - its been a whole month since I've posted to my blog! (Even this post will be a fairly rapid one...) The 'Invisible-Gardener' title
 is due to me not staying in the same location for long at all-not a spare moment to hang around!

As with spring gardening every year, I start out with the best of intentions. In a work capacity I usually have grounds/gardening preparations on my mind, which include the ongoing winter clean up to ensure my garden areas are safe & looking good prior to opening.
 There have also been for the last ten years or so, other tasks that go along with grounds work; that of doing my share of work to inform other staff & volunteers. This usually involves talks & walks to update the teams not only as to what the grounds team have been up to during the winter months, but also as to our plans & hopes for the coming season. The open season was already underway when I started at Compton last year, it's therefore been good to chat to, & understand some of the roles of the people who I've seen about for some while now. The positive responses to our work were quite heart warming to be honest, the comments being particularly uplifting after quite a tough winter period & challenging start to the year.

Along with the duties mentioned above, the staff at Compton Verney have also been working hard to deliver new features in the grounds, to widen our offering to visitors, especially families, more on this lower down...

Therefore, after all said & done; its been a very hectic time. We did get quite far behind with general grounds work, but we are hauling ourselves back up to date gradually; helped in no small measure by the generous helping of sunshine & dry weather. As I type, we are head-long into Easter, & I'm having a short break away from Compton, & preparing to pick up the baton again very soon. I've a trip to Blenheim planned, & with my Lancelot Brown interest, I'll be in my element!

Art in the grounds has been a frequent activity at Compton Verney for some years now, with some spectacular & successful installations. This year is not different, & we've installed two temporary features, on loan; Jem Finer's 'Spiegelei', & 'The Horse is a Noble Animal,' by Marcia Farquhar. Both artworks are very different, apart from timber being the main ingredient, & each one has been carefully positioned within the grounds to take advantage of the spectacular setting. The close-up photos I've added below are only intended to tempt your artistic taste buds, as they really have to be seen at the location to appreciate the work involved - you'll just have to visit!

Spiegelei, at Compton Verney, 2011

The Horse is a noble animal, at Compton Verney, 2011
 In addition to the artworks, we've been busy installing some more fixed items in the grounds, namely a willow feature & separate playground. Having chosen the areas to ensure the features 'blend' in as much as possible (yes we are a listed historical garden,) we've chosen in the play equipment & willow tunnel, features that add something significant to the overall visitor 'offering'. The items have been well received by our visitors so far, & all the heavy work preparing for their installation is now fading into the background. It has been an unexpected bonus, when working nearby during the recent school holidays, to hear the excited shouts of the children as they fly down the zip wire, or shout "higher - higher" on the swing!

Despite some impressive play equipment, I guess the willow feature is my favourite, as although it is quite a straightforward design, it is more of a horticultural offering & will require a degree of pruning to keep it looking good. The rods are shooting nicely now, & after all this dry weather, I'm glad we went to the trouble of digging the lines of planting, & mulching after the rods were 'planted'. David Gosling & team installed the willow & completed the weaving, & its now over to us to maintain & develop.


We're also completing a new shrubbery planting in the car park area, in order to screen the car park from the surrounding landscape & soften the area as a whole. Unsurprisingly, the ground is heavy going, making progress slow, (Lancelot didn't leave much topsoil for me to play with!) but we're getting through it & have received some good comments from our regular visitors who can see how it will improve the area in particular. The positive comments make the hard work worthwhile, & always boost moral. The mixed evergreen & deciduous shrubs have some growing to do, but will form a good old fashioned shrub shelter belt, beneath a fine Wellingtonia Avenue.


Well I'll finish up here for now, the weekend's activities are drawing on my time, it's taken me two days to finish this post in fact, what with a teething toddler making his presence felt!  I've got lots more coming soon, at work & home, & some of it may even make it onto here!

Do look out for my article in the latest edition of Warwickshire Living, it's a new venture for me & I'm excited at the opportunity to write about my work & gardening. Do let me know if there are any particular aspects of Warwickshire gardening that you'd like me to write about in future issues, or if there are any gardens you'd like me to write about.

Happy Easter Gardening!



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