Spring is cancelled this year, it is official. Similar to the lockdown syndrome where days seem to merge because of a lack of routine, this year we have skipped a season as temperatures have gone straight into summer mode. Nature is a bit in flux due to this. Usually, this would be the season when beekeepers would be extracting the first hive harvest but what is evident is that there is little honey to be removed. Due to the lack of spring flowers and tree pollen, which creates the bulk of the biggest extraction of the year, any honey on the frames should not be removed as this would leave bees with no energy reserves for the colony.
The window of moving from cold weather to wet and then higher temperatures is fooling a whole plethora of plant species, and this includes grasses too. We are finding that growth on the course and courts is going into overdrive, as water, light and heat energy are quickly available in abundance. Anyone who has ventured out of town recently may have noticed that farmers are putting in double shifts at the moment to collect silage crops from the fields while the grasses are lush and full of water.
Currently on the course, our rough mower is also doing overtime to try to keep the grass to regulation height. It may be that June is the pivot point, if the warm weather continues then grass growth will stabilise and slow. Like each plant, grasses are similar in that they have their cycle and stages of growth for the year.
Some keen-eyed golfers may notice a white tinge to the greens that usually shows up in May. This is the formation of the seed heads on the poa plant which dominates ours, and most other swards on British golf greens. It is part of the progression of the plant’s annual processes that we have to contend with and after a few weeks this will subsided. It will be interesting to see what other consequences there are to our plant and wildlife. We have noticed flowering plants are blooming better than previous years – maybe due to fewer predatory insects feeding on them increasing energy levels that can be directed towards flowering more generously. It will be interesting to see if this is converted into bumper crops of soft fruit for farmers down the line.
Last week we welcomed the replacement gingko tree to be planted near to the bandstand. A rather exceptional method had to be found to transport the 9-metre-tall specimen into place due to the limited space and fear of damage to the tree if it was manoeuvred the conventional way through the site. A three-ton root ball is not the easiest thing to pick up and place where needed. We employed the services of a specialist logistics company to crane the tree into site from the Fairacres parking area to the shrub bed near the bandstand. Many thanks are due to the residents of Fairacres for their assistance and our very own Mr Vass, who was charged with the task of preparing the planting ground for the Gingko biloba and ensuring it landed to earth gently and without issue.
RHS in The North
The RHS Garden Bridgewater (pictured in header image) will probably be the legacy project for the RHS Director General Sue Biggs and has been a massive undertaking for the organisation. The RHS has four existing gardens which have been bequeathed to them over the last century by philanthropic horticulturalists, predominantly in southern England. For the last 20 years the Society has been hoping to fill the gap in the regional matrix by acquiring a site in the northwest of the country to bring the word and examples of horticultural excellence to the M6 corridor between Birmingham and Manchester. Finding a blank page which could be designed to their desired specification was no easy task and has been followed in a BBC documentary on the building of Bridgewater, aired in the same month as the opening.
It is a unique space and commitment for the RHA as the land is being leased from the Peel group for the site and the enticement of funding from Salford City Council made the venture more favourably than other locations. It is hoped that, in the post-Covid-19 decade, the garden will attract over one million visitors a year and, as well as bringing the spirit of the RHS to a new multitude of gardeners, it will also bring greater prosperity to the area as keen to rejuvenate its image. The site has created more than 100 jobs, half of which were filled by local people living within five miles of the garden.
Work in the Club gardens never stops and with June upon us, it is a busy time for all. Wisteria is late to flower this year but when it is finished it will be time for summer pruning, cutting all the long side shoots back to 20cm, to promote flowering next spring. Support tall-growing perennials, including hollyhocks and delphiniums, with sturdy canes. We are about to start the planting process of putting out summer bedding at the Club and at home, now is the ideal time to obtain plants and get busy. Soil preparation is key to a successful planting season, and it is advisable to add an organic plant food such as blood, fish and bone to the soil and rake in before planting. Cut back spring-flowering perennials, such as pulmonaria, to encourage a fresh flush of foliage. It is also wise to tie in new stems of climbing and rambling roses horizontally to supports, to encourage more flowers. Pinch out the tips of fuchsias and bedding plants to encourage bushier growth.