March has seen a continuation of the exceptionally dry weather conditions throughout the month and has meant that there is the very real threat of water shortages across the south of England and the promise of hosepipe bans and drought orders. Though not effective yet they are due to come into force in April for domestic use but we should still be able to use hosepipes for watering in the Harris Garden.
The Magnolias have been flowering this month having been brought on early by the unusually warm, dry weather and the Camellias in the woodland glade seem to have started flowering early as well. Many wild flowers have also been in bloom with violets, primroses, wood anemones and lastly cowslips all enjoying the early spring sunshine.
Spring bulbs have been providing splashes of colour around the garden with the daffodils and fritillaria under the Crab-apples particularly eye catching. The Cherry Circle has also been especially pretty this month with more daffodils and the specie Tulips putting on a colourful show beneath the cherry blossom which started to open later in the month. Other bulb displays included the Chionodoxas under the Prunus amanagowa, the Scilla siberica and the little clumps of Muscari.
We have started another volunteer group which is coming into the garden on Wednesday afternoons and is made up from students who are interested in environmental and ecological issues; many of them work on other local environmental volunteer projects at the weekends. Their first project in the Harris Garden has been to clear up the area inside the Wilderness Road perimeter fence creating a ‘dead hedge’ using all the cut and fallen timber and brush that was strewn about the area. After the brambles had been cleared the hedge was made by driving a double row of posts 2ft apart along the edge of the eco-zone and then stacking all the cut timber and brush between the posts to create habitat for small birds, mammals and insects. We were then able to plant Hazel (Corylus) whips in the cleared area.
The Thursday volunteer group have also been busy helping to complete our winter and spring planting programmes. Firstly they spent two weeks in the ‘Jungle border clearing away the winter debris and weeding before planting up the gaps and cleared areas with plants grown from seed, bulbs and bought in exotics like Agave cacti and Hedychiums (Gingers). The banana plants are still wrapped up and will not be uncovered until the risk of frost is past. The following two Thursdays saw the group move on to prepare and plant up the Autumn Border with grasses, Chelone, Rudbeckia, Helenium and Aster and others. The final Thursday of the month was spent tidying and edging the herbaceous border at the back of the lawn at the garden entrance.
I have spent a fair bit of my time this month rescuing Cyclamen, ferns and primroses from the grounds of Bridges Hall which is now closed pending demolition. These rescued plants have been relocated in the Birch copse near the shed along with donated ferns and other shade loving plants.
The rest of my time has been spent mowing and edging the lawns as we prepare for the first open day on April 15th also watering, I cannot remember having to use the sprinklers in March before!