Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Castles in Kent

Last weekend was, as is the case in May, spent selling plants in a couple of historic gardens. On Saturday, we were at Saltwood Castle ,supporting the NSPCC plant fair.This is a remarkable and romantic site, very rarely open to the public. Our pitch was on the lawn ,surrounded by ruinous ecclesiastical buildings, all protected by a high flint wall, patrolled by battalions of unearthly peafowl.This, understandably, is a very popular sale, and people were queuing before the start at ten. We sold plenty of plants, despite problems with perishing recyclable bags. Our lovely Siberian Irises and Gladiolus communis ssp Byzantinus were particularly popular and sold out both at Saltwood, and at Godinton on Sunday, which was a quieter day, though still windy. This was run by Plant Heritage, and held on the lawns in front of the jacobean brick mansion house, which is now in the hands of a conservation trust.Set in traditional, peaceful parkland, this house is only a stone’s throw from the grimy metropolis of lovely Ashford.It has much of interest for the gardener:the walled garden is home to a collection of Delphiniums, curated by the Delphinium Society, and the formal gardens were laid out by Sir Reginald Bromfield at the start of the last century. For our sins, we have never ventured inside the House.
Next Friday , we return to Horsmonden Farmers Market:we hope to catch up with old friends. On Saturday, we’ll take some plants to Macmillan Nurses Open Garden at Church Farm Oast in Sissinghurst, before we load up to go to the Lullingstone Castle Plant Fair on Sunday.
The little rain we had last Friday freshened things up, but the round of watering has begun again. The grass for the cattle appreciated it, but it really wasn’t enough. I’m planning to move the Sussex youngstock up the road to some fields that are in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.We cannot use fertiliser or spray on these, and after about eight years, we are seeing an increase in the range of plant species. Most excitingly, I’ve seen spotted orchids, and am looking for Green Winged Orchids, as they are in the area, but I’ve not (yet) seen them on this farm. Quite apart from their innate beauty, wild flowers are part of the “ food chain”, and provide a habitat that benefits insects and birds.
When we first started the nursery, we were living in our cottage, and had our poly tunnel in the field. To level the site, I imported a lorry load of sub base.When we moved to the farmhouse, the tunnel came with us, but the stone remained.Now, 4 years on, we are planning a second tunnel, so I’ve brought back and spread two trailer loads of stone to level the site. During my quieter moments, I hope to dig the post holes, concrete the sockets, and gradually put up the tunnel. We’ll have to enlist some help to build the doors and put the skin on.We will be looking to increase ventilation by means of removable side panels.

Another iris picture!

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