February in the making


February in the making


I'm generally not a big fan of February. Although it is the month the garden really begins to come back to life, February is usually cold and dark. This last month has certainly been dark (and gloomy and damp) but by and large it has lacked those beautiful cold crisp clear winter days when the snowdrops shine and the aconites glisten like gold amongst the grass.

Yet last Friday I arrived to a very different scene indeed, the sun was out and although it was chilly there was definitely more than just a hint of warmth in the sunshine. Straight away I had one thing on my mind: mowing! It might sound a little bit silly but opportunities to mow early in the season can be few and far between and if my short time in Cumbria taught me nothing else then it was to mow whenever you can! The alternating temperatures of late winter can encourage grass growth while not particularly allowing you time to mow, the garden then was looking a little ragged. Grinning like a lunatic I set about mowing and strimming the garden into shape once more.

Then this week wind, rain, heavy frost, sleet, sun, leaden skies and drizzle have all featured, it's been a proper British spring mixture. Sniffling and sneezing through a very unwelcome cold (maybe it was still a little too cold to go mowing in a t-shirt!) I set out on Monday to ready the garden for our plant supports course the next day. Through heavy rain and squally winds we arranged materials and wove the finishing touches to the structures and generally got everything together. I'm a bit of perfectionist when I'm preparing for courses or tours, I like to feel that the only wild card on the day is likely to be me!

Luckily the weather wasn't as bad as forecast on Tuesday despite one of those trademark spring showers, where the water droplets seem to be larger than physics should allow, hitting just after lunch. I really enjoy meeting people who come on the courses and sharing the garden with them.

Our plant structures course started with me giving a little background talk about the garden and the house and explaining how these influence our structures. I'm hugely enthusiastic about Arne's approach and about the way we garden at Allt-y-bela, I could talk all day about it and so I have to try and be strict with myself so that we leave plenty of time for making.

I love seeing the range of items produced on this course. We aim to teach some basic skills, provide materials and then support people to make the kind of structures that they really want to make. It makes for a really dynamic, fun environment. It was a real highlight for me come the end of the day to see happy faces loading a whole range of items into their cars. One of the great joys of working in horticulture is how prevalent the sharing ideas and skills is. Whatever it is you want to know or to learn there will be people out there who are almost literally bursting with enthusiasm over it and will be only too willing to share it with you.

Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela

Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer

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