Grass Clippings

There is no denying that autumn is on its way. Anyone travelling along roads in the countryside last week will testify that the rose hips and sloes are laden on bushes along the course of hedgerows at the moment and there was a distinctive nip in the air at the beginning of the week. Although the warm period in August will have paid the end to the glut of blackberries that were forming, for us grass growers the rains in the last few weeks have helped recovery no end. To get the Club Tennis Championship played, they have been shoehorned into the beginning of September and Chris’s team have pulled out the stops to present the grass courts to perfection for the event.

Ashley and his team are preparing the golf course ready for the plethora of September events planned as a result of trying to cram competitions into the Covid-effected calendar of 2020. In tennis, golf, and croquet we are preparing for autumn renovation time and aeration, over seeding and dressing (on the three sports) before we lose the warm soil generated over the summer.

As any farmer will explain, seed needs three key components to germinate: light, moisture, and heat from the soil. The soil temperature is critical for raising our ‘crop’ of grass successfully, and, from now on, soil temperatures are diminishing rapidly as days shorten and the sun’s strength weakens. The temperature of the soil drops rapidly in the next few weeks to become much cooler until springtime arrives.

There is a window of opportunity to get next year’s grass successfully raised and established before winter curtails the growing period. Therefore, this work is crucial to us all, as the germination of seed this autumn will become the playing surfaces next year. To mis-quote Lewis Carroll, ‘It’s jam today or jam tomorrow but not jam every day’.

Plantation House

In the second in the summer series on lost London, many of the capital’s old trading exchanges and markets have now been lost to the bulldozer. One such building is Plantation House which stood since 1935 on a major part of Fenchurch Street and reputed to be the second largest office complex in the city at the time. It housed not only the action floor space but traders, brokers, shippers of the tea trade and allied industries such as sugar, timber, and rubber. The design was inspired by the New York form of skyscrapers of the time but on a more human scale. A fit more in keeping for the London architecture of the time and considered one of the most elegant buildings in town. It was designed by Albert Moore, who is better known for his earlier work in the city, the Art Deco headquarters of the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, recognised as today as the OXO Tower.

The main façade of Plantation House on Mincing Lane, known by London cabbies then as ‘the street of tea’ was dressed with Portland Stone with a large imposing portico entrance and a tired effect of subsequent floors after the second story. It was well liked by the traders and all those who used the building as welcoming and cosy feel to the interior. As well as its day job of commerce, it was not unknown for Plantation House to hold gatherings: formal dinners and social events of all forms.

In the 1980s, for a 14-year period it became home to the London Metal Exchange, as tea estate owners switched to dealing directly with manufactures, the need for a market floor to action tea diminished. The building was decommissioned in 1994 and was finally razed to the ground in 2001 to make way for a larger glass and steel office block development, with only the name Plantation Place as the final reminder of the career of its predecessor.

Early autumn in the garden

September is a great month to be in the garden with plenty to be done to keep a budding gardener busy for weeks. With leaf fall almost upon us its possibly one of the busiest times of the year, clearing away leaves and moving forward with other necessary jobs. With summer bedding at its peak of blooming, before the frosts start to hit them hard, it is time to start to look towards winter and next year’s spring display for pots and borders. There are plenty of companies to choose from supplying bulbs by mail order or direct from the garden centre. Inspect bulbs at close quarters to ensure they are not contaminated by fungal bacteria or mould. Choose bulbs that are firm to the touch and do not yield when squeezed, which is a sign that they may have rotten from the inside. There should not be any issues with availability this year and the range of colours for tulips and narcissus varieties get better each year. If we do get a wet spell, it’s not an issue to stall planting till later in the season as long as you can store in a cool dark garage or garden shed which has no mice issues.

We tend to plant later at the Club, due to squirrel theft (of planted bulbs) so leaving it as late as we can. Containers can also be planted up for autumn interest with cyclamen, heathers heucheras and other colourful bedding plants at this time of the year to cheer up a patio or balcony in the dark days to come. One of my favourite tasks for this time of the year is to lift, divide and replant congested clumps of perennials, such as achilleas once they finish flowering. If its mild, this task can be done through the wintertime to help improve viability and will result in more plants than you shall possibly need. Clumps can be chopped up with a spade, prized apart with garden forks or carved off with a pruning saw. Whichever way you attempt these tasks your find this rewarded process as it gives you a chance to rearrange a border and bring unruly plants into check. Collect ripe seeds from your favourite flowers and store in labelled envelopes, ready to sow in spring. Like with the bulbs, store in cool dark storage away from light. Takeaway food containers are ideal for this process.

Happy gardening to all

Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager