Grass Clippings

Green, green grass

I recently heard the comment that the eye registers a greater number of tones of green than any other colour. As someone who has more than a passing interest in items that appear in green, I dug a little deeper into this statement. I discovered that in principle this is true as our eyes process light on the receptors of the retina that are sensitive to the three different types of cones to different wavelengths (colours) of light. Our eyes respond to green more than blue and red and as a result greens appear brighter and register more in the mind as various shades that exists in nature. The lockdown and sense of time slowing down has given back time to observe the changes in spring this year. I took photos for this column in March when the trees were first unfurling their leaves and remember the excitement of seeing the fresh bright shades on maple and horse chestnut trees.

The grasses on the course were pumped with water from the winter rains and lush with growth. May is almost at an end now and we are reaching the point where we have had very little rain for over twenty days. The colour green has lost some of that lustre as most plants now have to cope with daily chore of photosynthesis with less water. Areas that are not blessed by an irrigation sprinkler are looking ‘stressed’, and we lament when we see brown and not green. But nature is clever and when faced with scarcity, plants and grass shut down activity and wait it out. As much as we all love summer for the warmth and bright blue skies, I wait for autumn to return and for green to have one last triumphant phase before the temperature change takes a grip and pulls on the cloak of winter colours.

Around the grounds and gardens

So far this year the course and grounds are coping well with what nature has thrown our way, from the heat of last week to the cool blustery winds of the weekend that have given us time to prepare the grass tennis courts ready for play. This week, the bottom block of courts opened, and Chris and the team are getting the top block prepared from Monday. From a hibernated state, during lockdown he has turned around the courts in double quick time to manage to get them ready for the Members. The same is true of the course, in that now after a week of play and some much needed foot traffic on the greens, they are firming nicely and the frequency of the cut, along with the drying wind and sunshine will help fasten the pace of the surfaces much more than we can ever achieve with mower and roller. It is change-over days in the garden from the spring palette, that sadly most Members missed this year, we move on to the vibrancy of summer this week as Steve and his team start the process of planting out the bedding display. In the herbaceous border, we have alliums and lupines giving way now to the summer prima donnas waiting in the wings. For children of all ages and beyond, the Children’s Garden is in full swing. This will be the last year in its current location, between the bandstand and the junior courts, but we hope to relocate it in the future to help educate and stimulate all who enjoy eating fruit and vegetables.

Virtual Chelsea

For all those who missed their fix of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, the RHS and the BBC did a sterling job trying to fill the gap left by the cancellation of this year’s event. The organisation (RHS) organised Virtual Chelsea this year so members and the general public could sit at home, preferably with a Pimm’s in hand, and be informed and entertained by insights and tours of leading designers, plant experts and personalities from the horticultural world. For all Members of the Club who still wish to attend a horticultural show this year, this week will be crucial as the RHS are hoping to gain some information from the government on whether they can hold the Hampton Court Show in early September. But like every part of our lives now, the significance of the ‘RI’ number (Rate of Infection) will play a part in the decision-making process.

Opening up

According to the latest update from government last weekend, people may now ‘visit gardens and land maintained for public use as an alternative open space to spend time outdoors, although buildings and amenities such as cafes will remain closed and access may be limited to members or those with tickets to ensure social distancing. You should check ahead and follow social distancing guidelines.’

The National Trust and other gardens and heritage attractions are reopening car parks. Many organisations are facing financial impacts as income dries up during the lockdown. All fee-paying gardens such as Kew, RHS, English Heritage, Eden Project and National Trust sites closed around the time of lockdown on 23rd March. Although Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew Gardens are preparing to open soon, it will be a phased process. The National Trust also have the same issue, with the added complication that every location may well have site-specific clauses depending on capacity. Probably the best advice is to keep checking the websites for updates on how each organisation is coping with the changes.

Your own back yard

For the discerning gardeners at the Club, the ‘Chelsea Chop’ is now the modus operandi for the end of May. It refers to cutting back some of the growth of late-flowering perennials by about a third to delay flowering and increase the number of side shoots which will result in more – if slightly smaller – blooms and staggers their display later in summer.
Any plant that has been knocked or collapsed never looks the same however carefully you prop it up, so the secret is to support plants before they need supporting. If you place supports in position while the plants are still relatively short, they will quickly be hidden by the new growth and as a result your borders will not look corseted and constrained. It does not matter what you use – I prefer homemade metal supports that are rusted and almost invisible after a day or two but stakes and twine or twiggy pruning all work well.
It is time to plant out tomatoes if you have not already done so. We have had a glut of seedlings this year and they will be winding their way to the Children’s Garden soon. Bury them deeply – right up to the bottom leaf as the buried section of stem will develop extra roots. As the young plants grow, they form shoots between the leaves and the stem, and these are known as side shoots. They grow with extra vigour and although they do bear trusses of fruit, they take energy from the plant and reduce the overall harvest as well as making a cordon plant straggly. So, they should be removed as they appear.
By the middle of May the water of any pond is likely to be warm enough to plant into and to lift and divide any existing plants as well as plant deep water aquatics like water lilies. We have just cleared the pond at the Club of various weeds. There are various products on the market to help reduce pond weed and one we advocate is to colour the water, using vegetable dye, to help cut down photosynthesis of pond weed plants so they do not get out of hand

Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager