Grass Clippings

Patient Saints

In biblical terms, the recent weather would test even the patience of a saint, with recent rainfall figures saturating the ground to levels higher than I have witnessed in the past five years. Perhaps prayer is the way forward. But to whom? There is no officially recognized patron saint for green keepers, nor groundsmen, so who should we call upon in an ecclesiastical emergency? 

Saint Fiacre is possibly the best candidate, being the patron saint of growers of vegetables and medicinal plants, and gardeners. Along with his horticultural connection he is also the patron of several other trades as well as the of victims of haemorrhoids – hopefully not a reaction to the outdoor pursuits cited.

Another candidate could be St Francis of Assis – the patron saint of ecology – the branch of science concerned with the relationships of organisms and their environment. St Francis is also therefore associated with nature and the environment making a good match for Greenkeepers and Groundsmen who spend their careers dealing with plant interaction, the specialism of turf and indeed, botany and ecology. Another match might be St Isidore the Farmer who is the patron saint of farmers or even St Frances Xavier Cabrini, the saint of impossible causes. This one might be more compatible to our industry, given the pursuit of perfection in impossible weather conditions. But it is St Jude, the patron saint of desperate causes, who might be our best bet given the task of keeping our greens in perfect conditions all year around. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, home of the Old Course at St Andrew’s Links, St Bernadine of Siena is the patron saint of public relations, St Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of headache sufferers and pray to St Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost articles. Perhaps a combined allegiance to all four would help with committee meetings and arranging maintenance budgets? A difficult choice. Maybe we should look to Greek mythology and the tried and trusted gods of the past. Demeter would certain fit the bill as the designated Goddess of Agriculture presiding over the vital cycles of plants and seasons. Whoever provides righteous help it will all end up with Dionysos the God of Wine as the weather is enough to turn anyone to the bottle. 

The Sissinghurst Garden

In the 1930s, writers Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, the owners of Sissinghurst, were so inspired by a visit to the Greek island of Delos that they set about trying to emulate the look and feel of the island at their Kent home. Taking inspiration from the ancient ruins of Greece, the couple scattered stones around the garden from a demolished medieval mansion and planted Mediterranean plants such as Quercus coccifera and Arbutus unedo. However, the Kent climate and north-facing position of the garden, combined with their limited knowledge of Mediterranean planting, meant that the garden never really thrived and instead resulted in a woodland feel. In 2016, the National Trust engaged garden designer Dan Pearson to reimagine Delos and create a space that combines the feel of a Mediterranean garden with the archival imagery and first-hand information from the Nicolson family about the original garden. Using current design practices, clever landscaping and a broader spectrum of planting, a more robust and sustainable garden has been created. The garden is maturing well since planting and it is well worth a visit to Kent to see the work of Dan Pearson with the support of the National Trust.

2020 International Year of Plant Health

Dame Helen Mirren has helped renew efforts to keep plant disease Xylella fastidiosa out of the UK in 2020 – the UN’s International Year of Plant Health. Mirren has narrated a new animation that warns of the devastation it causes, including the death of millions of olive trees in Europe. 

Launched by BRIGIT, a consortium of twelve universities and research institutes led by the John Innes Centre and including the RHS and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the four-minute animation is intended to educate the public about the insect-borne biosecurity risk, the symptoms to look out for, and the risks of bringing plants back from abroad. She has witnessed first-hand the impact of the disease on businesses and communities in Puglia, Italy and has previously urged gardeners to buy plants sourced or grown in the UK. Xylella is a bacterium that infects more than 500 species of plant causing leaf scorch, wilt, die-back and plant death. There is no known cure for the disease. 

Xylella is not present in the UK but the public is being asked to look out for symptoms and to report them to the TreeAlert service ( when the cause cannot be explained by other factors, such as frost damage, drought or other common pests and diseases. The UK has funded the 28-month BRIGIT project to generate the evidence and understanding needed to reduce the risk of Xylella being introduced, to respond to any interceptions and outbreaks, and to mitigate the impact of the disease were it to become established. 

Advice to help prevent the introduction of Xylella includes: Source new plants carefully, where possible purchase plants grown in the UK. Propagate your own plants from seeds or cuttings. Check plants for signs of disease before purchase and monitor the health of new plants. Never bring home plants from abroad. 

Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager |