15 June 2015
One year on...
I always find there is a moment in early June when you realize that somehow, without really being able to understand how, you are getting behind in the garden. Luckily over the years I have learned to recognize and accept this momentary panic and to take the necessary steps to correct it - this usually entails dashing about like a headless chicken pulling weeds as if your life depended on it.
It was on Tuesday as I was sitting at the kitchen table having a dubiously earned cup of tea with Pat, the frankly irreplaceable housekeeper, when she dropped into conversation the state of play for the next week or so. It looked something like this: A tour for the professional Gardeners' Guild on Friday, Arne's courses next Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and then our annual summer production in the garden theatre on Saturday. All of a sudden my calm demeanor disappeared and the familiar feelings of barely concealed panic returned with a vengeance. I knew that all of this was coming of course; I just hadn't realised how close it all was!
Arne usually condenses his main courses into a couple of weeks around mid summer and around the time of the play and it is during these few weeks that the garden is seen by the most people. Consequently it becomes the most important time of the year in the garden at Allt-y-bela. This year it is all condensed down into one week with a garnish of professional gardeners -eek!
It was this time last year that I was packing my final boxes and moving to Usk to start work here. I finished my previous job on the Friday, spent a couple of busy days moving furniture and boxes in cars to start work on the Monday, again one of the busiest weeks of the year. Last year however all of the hard work had been done before I started and although those first few weeks were a whirlwind of people, courses, information and gardening, the foundations had been well laid for the transition. I was then, and am now, very grateful that they were!
So here I am, one year on and what can I say? I love the garden more today than I did the day I started. I certainly understand the way it all works a lot more clearly, and I definitely feel much more settled. Moving jobs is a stressful time and starting a gardening job in mid summer is certainly not for the faint hearted. I feel like I know the basics now and hopefully I will have many more years here to perfect what I have learned and to learn more as the garden changes and develops.
Back in the here and now and it's Friday afternoon. I'm feeling much more positive about the garden; most things are in their rightful places and the parts that need the most attention are the least visible. (There is always Monday to sort out those areas!) The group of gardeners came this morning and were incredibly supportive and seemed to be genuinely enchanted by the garden. Next week I will start cutting the box topiary while Arne leads his courses, it's the part of the job I love the most and the gentle clacking of shears shouldn't be too distracting for those who have come to share a little of Arne's wisdom and some of the magic of Allt-y-bela. I look forward to meeting those of you who are attending.
Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photos: Britt Willoughby Dyer
We still have a few tickets left for the production of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, to be performed in the Garden Theatre at Allt-y-bela on Saturday 20 June. Bring a picnic and enjoy the garden before the play starts at 7pm.