I am cautious but there is a feeling of spring in the air. The mornings are getting lighter and while walking around Barnes I have noticed that front-garden shrubs are ready to bloom. Forsythia, Magnolias and Quince will come to life with a riot of colour soon. It was this time last year however that the Beast from the East came to visit and so I have my finger crossed, making it difficult to type, that we do not get any callers from the north pole this year. The lengthening days will bring a gradual lift in soil and air temperature and trees, plants and grasses will respond by initiating growth.
Around the grounds
We are now moving away from winter projects and will start the process of enhancing presentation on the course and grounds. Our own recorders show that we have now exceeded over 500mm (20’’) of winter rain indicating that this may be the wettest on record. It is too early to say for certain as the Meteorological Office publish data several months in arrears due to the large number of recordings produced by them for the whole country. We are still trying to recover from the deluge of rain that has fallen on the site and listening to recent Member comments, many are sympathetic to the greenkeepers / ground’s teams’ plight and the fact that this has been a unique winter, which may well become the norm. From some comments however I sense that there is a need to explain the impact that nearly two feet of rain has had on the estate. Under our feet there is almost 100 yards of clay material before we hit a seam of green sands and then the under-lying rock type for the London basin; chalk. The water table within the clay has risen to its highest levels for many years and the ground is saturated almost to surface level in the lowest points of the golf course. We are at ‘field capacity’ as it is agriculturally known. With continued rain, it is a waiting game as there is nowhere else for the water to go under gravity. What compounds the situation on some of the holes on the east side of the course (4, 5, 16 and 17) is that surface runoff from our neighbours finds its way down hill and we become a mini floodplain. It’s not, as some would believe, that there is a leak from the pond within Roehampton University’s grounds. On the course, we are actively carrying out more aeration techniques than at any other time in the course’s past. Each of the surfaces has a specific programme for ‘banging holes’ (getting technical) into them to keep channels open for driving water down and for allowing air to circulate around the root hairs. The top-dressing programme we embarked upon five years ago, for fairways, has been the singular most important factor in the conditioning of the surface. We have taken profiles of the fairways to observe the sand patterns and there is now a constant stream of sand going down to 8cm (3’’) throughout the areas. Any golfer who ambles off left or right of the fairways into the rough will notice the difference under foot and how much firmer it is to be on the fairways. Like every household and business, we must prioritize how we use our resources and sand these days is an expensive commodity. It’s essential not only for the sports turf industry but also for the building trade, water filtration systems and for glass manufacturing. So, we shall not be rolling out a wall-to-wall sand dressing policy any time in the future. We will be attempting to improve the roughs and carry’s with an over-seeding programme and introducing grasses that can withstand higher summer temperatures and less stress prone. Futureproofing is the key word for maintaining our sports surfaces.
Royal Horticultural Society – Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2020
The RHS is to raise awareness of loneliness at the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2020. This year’s theme focuses on promoting gardening for everyone with displays that highlight green spaces as vital places for people to reconnect, not only with nature, but friends, families and in communities. The announcement follows an RHS survey that found 52% of people in Britain had experienced loneliness. Acclaimed landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith is this year’s Iconic Horticultural Hero and will showcase a drought-tolerant garden. Stuart-Smith will work with a team of apprentices at Sunnyside Rural Trust, a charity offering training and work experience to vulnerable people, who will help grow the herbaceous plants for the garden. Returning once again with Cancer Research UK, Tom Simpson will create a peaceful space for visitors to sit together. The figure of eight layout will see the two halves connected by a serpentine water rill and will highlight the importance of pledges and how they support the research breakthroughs to help beat cancer sooner. The Northern Roots Oldham Garden designed by Peter Donegan showcases the pioneering Northern Roots project, exploring how green urban spaces can be utilised to provide economic and social benefits to local communities. Former RHS Young Designer of the Year Will Williams returns with cruise operator Viking, which is supporting the festival for the fifth year. The Viking Friluftsliv Garden is a Scandinavian-inspired social space promoting a relaxing outdoor lifestyle complete with a kitchen, plunge pool, seating area and fire pit. Award-winning designer Paul Hervey-Brookes will also create a contemporary setting for entertaining and relaxing with friends, drawing inspiration from the renowned architecture of Sir Christopher Wren with the Brewin Dolphin Garden – Inspired by Wren. RHS Hampton Court has become the perfect foil to compliment RHS Chelsea, which has always been a show case and a date on the ‘society calendar’. Hampton Court has been able to offer so much more for the discerning gardener and has been able to build a roster of workshops and talks to show how both keen gardeners and amateurs alike can get involved with their passion for all thing horticultural.
It’s time to get your wellies on and make an impact on the garden for spring. Hard-prune roses and clear away lingering dead leaves to clear away remaining black-spot spores. It is now a little late to find bare-root roses from suppliers but container-grown plants ready for planting area appearing at garden centres. Give established roses, herbaceous plants, climbers and bulbs a spring feed with garden compost. If you only have farm manure, make sure it’s well-composted, use at half the rate of garden compost, and keep away from plant stems. Fork in lightly, or just leave on the soil surface and let soil creatures take it down. There is still time to prune roses also, if you did not do this task last autumn. Remember different rose types will prefer slightly different techniques for pruning for best results. For example, climbers will need to be left longer compared to the series previously known as hybrid teas and floribunda. If you know your rose named varieties, it is much easier to find them on the internet and what are the preferable ways to prune them. Hoe weeds on sight, especially annual weeds before they can seed. If a frost is forecast, be sure to protect any tender plants.