Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Grounds Update March 26 2012

It has been a hectic but enjoyable start to the year with many winter tasks still in need of completion, and many spring tasks shouting for attention. There's a great buzz about Compton Verney too as the new exhibitions are prepared for our official opening on 31 March, all staff being extra active as a result. The grounds team are no exception with heaps of jobs to attack and an exhilarating feeling that the flood gates will open on Saturday come-what-may! On a lighter note, the naturalised flowers throughout the grounds have been blossoming their little heads off since the first week in January, and it's really rewarding to think that from Saturday, our members and visitors will be able to benefit and enjoy the fruits of our labours - fingers crossed this lovely weather continues! 
Speaking of weather, this mild, summer like weather at the moment is really pushing growth throughout
  the grounds, with grass shooting, buds bursting and weed seeds germinating all over the place! The lawns are trimming up nicely however, the plants are mostly mulched and happy, and the gardening year is off to a flying start.
Amongst the winter jobs was the removal and dispatch of last years art works from the grounds,
  and these were safely sent on their way a few weeks ago. I can't imagine what people thought when passing a 3 meter high rocking horse travelling up the motorway! It was quite a challenge but a privilege to have them on our patch for a while, and I did enjoy the chats with visitors who were moved by them. I have to say however, it was nice to wave them goodbye, and to see them roll away to pastures new. I guess they will now possess the tag: 'As seen at Compton Verney!'

Wellingtonia Avenue, Compton Verney. Gary Webb.
Many of you will have seen a Wellingtonia Avenue before, as they were a fashionable addition to country estates in the mid to late 1800s. Compton's avenue revelled in the dead-wooding operation that was carried out during the winter before last, when muc
 h of the dead wood accumulated over the last 150 years was removed. However, the ensuing dry spring and summer triggered a larger than average drop of foliage, and cones; which all needed collecting following the winter winds. I'm happy to say the grass sward is restored following much effort by Adam, and the avenue is once again ready for the visitors walk to the play area.

We set out back in the autumn with our bulb planting, and finished off with the second part of the order last week where further bulbs were planted 'in-the-green.' There are Wild Daffodils and Tulips, along with Wood Anemone and English Bluebells, but the one I'm anticipating most is Convallaria, which should offer its lovely Lily-of-the-Valley scent in late spring. It will be a gamble as to what survives in the conditions available, and also which plants endure attack, as we've an established collection of squirrels, not to mention mice and of course our badgers. The chosen plants will offer an early season of floral and foliage colour, with the added benefit of pollen for early bees and butterflies. 
Compton Verney, Ice House Coppice Daffodils.
Gary Webb.
There is more planting to come over the next week or two as I push to establish a more diverse plant collection within the Ice House Coppice, and I'm excited to cover the planting in more detail in a future post. Suffice to say, that the new planting will add further to season-through colour, along with extra plants chosen to baulk up the shrubberies. 
I'm really happy with the progress the Trust has made in the coppice over the last few years, and look forward to seeing it mature and become established. With a bit of luck and careful planning, we'll hopefully be able to add many more native and pre 1800 plants over the coming years. More information on the coppice can be found on the link at the bottom of the page.
The establishing plants on the chapel bank are also receiving attention as they are pruned to give shape and control views from the terrace, this will, in time be useful for views across the lawns. There's also some new planting going in soon of the same period as the 18thC Brownian chapel and this bank, refreshingly receives full sun, allowing a little more scope when selecting from a comparatively short list of 18thC plants. With a bit of luck and skill we'll be enjoying Verbena bonariensis, Santolina chamaecyparis and Nepeta faassenii to name but three, and a few more herbs will go down nicely too!
We welcomed back the seasonal staff and volunteers last week, and it was nice to give an hours presentation to show all the developments in the grounds over the winter, and also to talk of new things we're planning. I think the buzz in the air I referred to is these folk who are so passionate about the art, grounds and Compton Verney as a whole, its great to represent them a
 s grounds manager, and I too am excited for the coming season. Finally, its worth mentioning that we could do with an extra pair of hands during the week, and if you know somebody who'd be interested in a grounds volunteering role, then do drop me a line and we'll see what we can do.
It can at times be quite a solitary role, and a little gardening or countryside experience would be beneficial, but most important is a passion for the outdoors and a love of nature, plants and wildlife. I'll finish up now by saying thanks for reading, do drop by again and if you do manage to visit Compton, do stop and say hello. I better go have a quick mug of Gardeners Tea!


The Ice House Coppice
Grounds volunteering contact details - please e-mail to express an interest in grounds volunteering.

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