The UK has seen an expansion of new interactive garden focused sites over the past several decades as large horticultural establishments aim is to reach a greater number of the public by extending their activates around the UK through satellite locations. The RHS Bridgewater Gardens has been created in 154 acres (62 ha) of the former Worsley New Hall estate. It is the RHS’s first new garden since it acquired Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire in 2001, and is one of Europe’s largest gardening projects. The site was chosen near Salford, Manchester after a funding competitive venture, which enticed local interest in bring the RHS to the north. The expected total cost of the project is £32.7m, of which the RHS has invested £15.7m of its own funds and received (by December 2019) a further £12.7m through grants and fundraising, including a £5m grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation and further donations from Salford City Council.
As we pass the Autumn Equinox and begin to descend into winter, we move from presenting the Club for summer play and shift up a gear into renovation mode. As I expressed to the Tennis Committee this week, we are on a diminishing timeline to complete our autumn renovations on the grass courts.
I used the analogy that the soil profile is like a large radiator, where we currently still have heat retained in the ground, to aid seed germination, producing the grass we need to grow for next year’s courts. Soon that heat will dissipate, and the cooling will prevent further grass seed to grow.
Therefore, across all three major sports on grass this is a critical time when we do more correctional work to help get the surfaces ready for winter. Aeration, top dressing and applying all the necessary nutrients to help the grass harden up to bolster its defences for what is to come, is essential to being prepared for winter. On the course, we will soon be applying sand dressing over the greens, tees, approaches and fairways. This process has, over the last seven years, improved the surfaces and made them less prone to water logging and the effects of worm casting. There are 31 species of earthworm known to occur in natural environments within the British Isles, though only two create casting mounds and of course these are the species that like living most on golf courses on former agricultural land.
Worm castings also known as vermicast, essentially earthworm waste, as these creatures eat through compost, their waste creates an optimal soil which they eject at the surface as they channel through an area. Over the last century the greenkeeping industry has resorted to applying a range of very toxic compounds to eradicate worms from golf surfaces including mercury-based compounds and arsenic formulations. Fortunately, we stopped poisoning the ground to deal with the issue some decades ago and we have been more inventive in dealing with the issue. Brushing and roping off the surface before play is one method, to scatter the casting so knocking it back into the surface. By using top dressing to alter the pH of the soil we try to make the area a less desirable place for worms to live. Worms are always going to be part of the soil structure of a golf course, but we must learn to live with them rather thinking can eradicate species which don’t quite fit our built environment.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show in autumn
The roundup of the autumn RHS Chelsea Flower Show saw 140,000 tickets available over six days. The usual May show sells out 158k over five days but was last held in 2019 because of the pandemic. The world’s most famous flower show saw the RHS look at rebranding itself as an environmental charity. While the event itself saw many last-minutes changes and expenditure from the organisers to ensure it had sufficient content. The three RHS feature gardens included Cop26 from Balston Agius, where the RHS promoted its new Sustainability Strategy and Defra launched its new consultation looking to discuss plant and tree post-Brexit import restrictions. The Responsible Sourcing Scheme launched its traffic light labels for bagged compost at the RHS exhibit too. The Queen’s Canopy Garden on the triangle site, designed by David Dodd, included 21 trees from Majestic Trees (one of the Club tree suppliers) which will go to RHS Bridgewater, which opened in May 2021. The Queen’s Canopy project will invite tree planting for her 70th jubilee. Roehampton Club has already designated areas for a new woodland on the golf course in support of this project. The BBC One Show Garden of Hope by Arit Anderson will go to Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust.
Winners from the 18 new plants entered into the plant of the year awards were Cercis ‘Eternal Flame’, shown by Stonebarn Landscapes – which won best marquee exhibit. Houseplant finally had their own zone and North One Garden Centre won the first best houseplant studio award. There were only six show gardens this year, fewer than ever before. Ghanghzou from Grant Associates won best in show. The Floral Marquee was diminished, partly because it is autumn and partly as a result of a trend away from shows by growers. Hillier, Jekka’s and Hardy’s were among those not exhibiting after many years attendance. The Sun’s/Peter Seabrook’s pyramid stand showcased new plants including the 100,000-selling Verbena Margaret’s Memory, which saw £8,000 donated to the Alzheimer’s Society. Harkness showed the new Queen Elizabeth II Rose to mark her platinum jubilee. The Queen did not attend this year, but the royal family was represented by HRH Princess Royal. The RHS is looking for a new show sponsor for May 2022’s event, to replace M&G, who are pulling out after eleven years of sponsorship. The BBC contract with the RHS is also to be renegotiated but as the event is a big draw for viewers, which is present by the whole Gardeners’ World team, it is thought that the BBC will pull out the stops to retain a relationship with the RHS.
Eden Project heads north
The Eden Project has made an application to Lancaster City Council to build a £125million project on Morecambe Bay’s seafront. The Eden Project said: ‘It’s official – we’ve submitted a planning application for Eden Project North in Morecambe’. Due to open in 2024, this mega-garden project will re-imagine the British seaside resort for the 21st Century. If approved, Eden Project North could attract one million visitors a year and directly employ more than 400 people. Eden Project North will focus on reimagining health and wellbeing, wonder and entertainment within its core venues. It brings together the archetypal ‘Eden dome’ sphere which would be an environment filled with plants and art exhibits, showcasing natural abundance and the rhythms of life linked to the sun. Below the bay area would be an immersive series of theatrical experiences that bring to life lunar rhythms and tides. The Natural Observatory: the home of Eden Project North’s research and education programme. External spaces and landscaping will link the venue sensitively to its location to Morecambe Bay. The estuary is the largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sand in the United Kingdom, covering a total area of 120 sq mi (310 km2). The rivers Leven, Kent, Keer, Lune and Wyre drain into the Bay, with their various estuaries making a number of peninsulas within the bay. Much of the land around the bay is reclaimed, forming salt marshes used in agriculture. Morecambe Bay is also an important wildlife site, with abundant birdlife and varied marine habitats, and there is a bird observatory at Walney Island. The bay has rich cockle beds, which have been fished by locals for generations. Sea-washed fescue turf had the reputation as the finest in England for decades and was harvested from the Bay area and sold across the UK, to cover many golf course greens and tennis courts, on the arrival of the steam train age.