A couple of years ago, I visited the garden at Clinton Lodge.
It is a beautiful garden and if you are able, I would recommend that you pay it a visit,
especially as there is also a brilliant pub, The Griffin, in the same village. (I ought to be on commission).
Anyway, beautiful garden, worth the trip. Make a note. But the reason I’m telling you about it is the number of gardening days that go into making Clinton so lovely. I found out that to tend and maintain the gardens takes seventeen work days per week. The equivalent then of three full-time gardeners plus another one working two days a week. The actual mix is more complicated with various part-timers and volunteers but my point is just how much work goes into maintaining a large beautiful garden.
|The largest weeping willow – East Lawn|
I used to do some volunteer gardening at Batemans, a National Trust garden. Here there were two (I think) permanent gardeners as well as a team of volunteers. And when attending a course at Great Dixter, I was a little surprised at how many voluntary staff there were.
Meanwhile, down at the Priory there’s lil ol’ me working four days per week. Whilst nowhere near as intricate in the execution of its planning or planting, the Priory is a bigger garden than Clinton Lodge and a similar size to Batemans and Dixter. Slowly, over the past two or three years as more of the gardens have been brought back under control and beds cleared and planted up, I’ve begun to realise that perhaps the vision of the Priory garden that I hold in my head is beyond my reach. Maybe. Maintaining a garden of this size is an awful lot of work. (Duh – quick on the uptake, me)!
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I adore the Priory – I couldn’t wish for a better job, truly. The day I’m told to leave they’ll be prising my fingers off the gate posts. But I have started to wonder about the future; about what is achievable, realistic.
Recently I have added another three beds to the garden and there’s at least one more small one to do. More maintenance, more weeding, more anxiety. And then there are the vague plans I have floating about my head of a woodland garden and a woodland walk, of a coppiced sweet chestnut plantation and a pleached hornbeam or lime avenue. Of two more very long semicircular beds that I’ll tell you about in due course. Of more vegetable beds. Good grief – so much.
|Thinking. Nosebleed imminent|
Then I fell to thinking (a foolish pastime, I know). Horticultural student! There’s a college not so very faraway. Perhaps I could arrange for a student to come one or two days a week and get some work experience. Or maybe I could interest someone in the village to come and do some voluntary work. It is, after all a lovely place to spend some time – with scintillating (if challenging) company. I would be in charge, of course. Have a clipboard and an armband. Issue directives. Do talking.
Anybody out there had experience of working with students and/or volunteers in their garden? More trouble than they’re worth? Or should I pin a notice on the Priory gates without further delay?
“Help Needed. Apply Within. No Riff-Raff.”