Sunday, 24 April 2011

Denbies and High Beeches

Happy Easter! Glorious weather, more like Ascension Day, really. Next Sunday, Mayday, we’ll be at a Plant Heritage Fair at Denbies Wine Estate, near Dorking in Surrey. This will be our first sale outside Kent or East Sussex, but is on home turf, as Elizabeth was living nearby when we first met, and has strong family links there. On Bank Holiday Monday, we will be at High Beeches Gardens , near Handcross in West Sussex. We’ve not visited these gardens before, and I’ll be very interested in looking at their wildflower meadow-I hope to be inspired in my planning of the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship application.
Farm work is slightly behind, due to the tractor failing to start. After much investigation on the part of myself and our neighbours, the van den Boomens, we traced the problem to loose connections on the starter and solenoid. Easily rectified.

This is the midday shade in our north facing dry bed-well dry today! Tellima grandiflora, Solomon’s Seal, various hellibores, a lovely euphorbia, Galium odoratum and Maianthemum racemosum, which we are growing, because it doesn’t seem to fall prey to the sawfly. It’s scented , too!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

April showers?

Our outing to Sissinghurst Plant fair was successful-we sold a goodly number of plants, and met some old friends. To date, we have had 1 millimetre of rain this month, and we are worried about possible drought restrictions in the coming weeks. The grass is growing, but slowly, and hay cuts are again looking to be thin. Not using nitrogen on our grassland makes us prone to worry about a dry spring. On the other hand, it is a pleasure to be able to work outside in shirtsleeves and leather boots.
We both heard the cuckoo today (19th. April). I read somewhere that their numbers are decreasing: certainly , they were conspicuous by their silence last year. One reason given was the decline in insect numbers, both here and in Africa.In an attempt to safeguard our insects, I sent dung samples to be analysed to identify the worms afflicting our youngstock. We generally use a pour-on product for ease of application, but I want to avoid this scatter gun approach. One problem with the pour-ons is that the active ingredient can in certain circumstances harm the beetles that eat the manure.This in
turn harms bats and perhaps cuckoos.

The photo is a detail of the elderly Prunus amenogawa by the front hedge. It has lost the typical columnar shape as a result of almost dying in the dry summers of the mid seventies, but has been improved by my removal of a large sucker that was taller than the original tree.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Sissinghurst Castle Plant Fair-Friday 15th.April.

On Friday 15th we will be at the Sissinghurst Castle Plant Fair, on the Green in front of the Castle. On a warm day, a very pleasant spot under the whispering poplar trees. Yesterday we spent the afternoon in the walled garden at Belmont on the North Downs, with the Kent Group of the Hardy Plants Society. The public didn’t really throng through the gates, but a steady stream enjoyed the varied plants available. There are certainly worse ways of spending a sunny Sunday afternoon! As well as selling a reasonable number of plants, we bought a couple of interesting violets-V.soraria ‘Alice Witter’ and ‘Rubra’ from the neighbouring stall: Forget Me Not Plants from Sussex.
The bluebells are flowering well, especially in the Ash Poles that were coppiced about 15 years ago. The wonderful, indescribable (and non photographable!) blue haze is occasionally accented by the somewhat carnal flowerspikes of the early purple orchids that seem to be increasing in number. Sitting in a ditch,sorting out an electric fence, I was delighted to see and hear a Willow Tit (OK, it could have been a Marsh Tit!),singing an incredibly liquid song in the branches of a hornbeam, only a few feet from my head.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Green at last

Light levels are up, ground temperature is supposed to be in double figures, and the grass is finally growing.The cows are out fulltime now, though the youngsters are still in, waiting for the outlying grass to bulk up.I’m pretty certain I saw a swallow yesterday, and the buzzards are still about.
We had an enjoyable day selling at Smallhythe last weekend-part of the Kent Big Day Out promotion, and we will be at a Hardy Plants Society fair at Belmont near Faversham on Sunday 10th April from 2-5.
Elizabeth is cracking on with the nursery work, and hopes to start the bulk of seeds next week. We don’t start too early, as we have no heat in the polytunnel.
We recently renewed our Entry Level Stewardship Agreement, and received confirmation from Natural England this week.Next year,our ten year Countryside Stewardship Agreement matures, and we are giving thought as to what follows. I hope that we will be able to join the Higher Level Scheme, as some of our arable reversion fields are showing a reasonable level of floristic interest.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m a Maoist ,as we seem to be in a state of permanent revolution.