Grass Clippings

Come rain or shine

As the temperature drops, it feels like autumn as we know it. Already in the last month, we have broken one weather record in the UK. On the 3rd October, during Storm Alex, which brought strong winds to the southern half of the UK, it was the wettest day on record since 1891 for UK-wide rainfall, with the average rainfall of 31.7mm across the entire landmass of the country. Enough rain to fill Loch Ness in one fell swoop. At the moment the surfaces are coping with the rain events as they drift in from the Atlantic, but I fear we are in for another wet winter. On the course we have been top dressing with our regular sand application and although it looks an insignificant amount, over the last seven years that we have been applying the spring and autumn doses, under the turf it has made a big impact on the soil structure and there is a nice sandy layer evident when you remove a profile from the ground. Enough to keep the fairways in good order come the deluge of rain we expect to see. We shall also continue to aerate the greens through the winter to keep the water moving down the profile. There is plenty of project work being under taken at the current time too. Next week, the team are going to start the rebuilding and repositioning of the 18th tees, as recommended by our safety consultant to reduce the risk of balls entering Fairacres. As well as this work, we are now planting up the landscape areas on the course which is part of the overall landscaping strategy. This embraces the conservation policy for the course and uses the recycled material which we generate on an annual basis. The by-product is that it also helps to create a better looking course with more features and helps each hole to have an individual identity. Planting is on-going on the area between the 2nd and 15th tees currently and then we shall move on to the 16th area behind the green in November. Soon the croquet lawns shall be going to three quarter lawn size, another indicator that winter is here. 

Lost London 

The Square Mile of London may well be quiet at the current time, as we move between tiers due to the Covid-19 epidemic and many more employees are working from home. But the arterial route in the vicinity of the Bank of England – ‘Bank Junction’ – has been a busy meeting place for centuries and of ancient historical interest. Arriving from the West is Poultry, and from the South West Queen Victoria Street, a cheese wedge of a site which once stood the Venetian-Gothic Mansion House Buildings . It became better known as The Mappin & Webb Building after the illustrious jewellers who long occupied the property. The Mappin & Webb Building of 1870 was an early work in the illustrious career of John Belcher RIBA RA (1831-13). He had joined his father’s architectural practice, having studied in Paris, so was fully versed in the French craze for Neo-Renaissance and Baroque embellishment. For No1 Poultry (the postal address), Belcher went out of his comfort zone and drew on the Ruskin inspired Venetian Gothic. Happily, the iconic sentry to the Bank of England stood the test of time, including the Blitz. But, controversially, The Mappin & Webb building was demolished in 1994.

The story of the demise of such a fine example of Victorian pomp could make a very interesting BBC drama script, for since 1958, Lord Peter Palumbo had acquired the freeholds to this landmark site and had let the component lease lapse. The empty offices were left to decline as it emptied – intentionally fated to the wrecking ball and bulldozer. A Mies Van der Rohe glass tower was envisioned as the replacement and a bitter fight raged through the courts for years but with forceful persistence from Lord Palumbo, insisting that his site should be re-developed – alas, the wonderful building could not be saved. The stripy post-modern James Stirling building was the ultimate replacement. On the completion of the latter in 1998, HRH Prince Charles described it as ‘A 1930’s wireless set’. Sir James Stirling’s replacement at No.1 Poultry, commissioned by Lord Palumbo, was granted Grade II* Listed Building status in November 2016 – the youngest building to be granted this protection. In pursuing the Listing, in order to prevent proposed ‘improvements’ to his legacy building, deep ironies were unearthed – Palumbo had demolished six listed buildings to get his 1998 building constructed.


Gardening know-how 

Now if I said there is more to planting a tree than digging a hole and burying the root ball, you may think I am exaggerating. But planting methods do vary on the size of the tree and even the species. Small, bare root trees, only several years old, which have been grown and lifted from nursery beds are by far the simplest trees to plant by the notch method. That is, cut a notch with a spade or mattock and, while holding it open, slip the tree in and spread the roots. Make sure the root collar is level with the soil surface. The root collar is the part of the tree’s stem that was at ground level when it was growing in the nursery – the stem often changes colour at this point. Then tread the split closed with your foot and check that the tree is firmly planted with a gentle tug. Bare root trees of such a young age do transplant better than older stock, but will take longer to reach a size when most people perceive them as a mature tree. A tree over five foot (1.5m) tall should be regarded as a mature rootstock transplant and a full planting pit be dug out for the plant. Make sure the holes are large enough to take the entire root network. Mark out the positions of the holes if you are planting multiple numbers of trees over an area before digging commences, otherwise it is easy to end up with too many trees at one end of the site and too few at the other. For large trees, over 1.5m, including fruit trees and specimen trees, which include container grown trees, dig a hole three times as wide as the pot and the same depth. Loosen the soil around the hole with a fork and add a small amount of fertilizer to the planting pit and work well into the base. Thoroughly soak the root ball in water before planting – standing it in a bucket is good for this. Loosen the root ball to encourage roots to grow into the soil. Place the root ball in the hole so that the point where the roots meet the trunk is level with the surface of the soil surface. A piece of wood can be useful to check the level. Refill the hole ensuring there are no air pockets around the roots. Firm the soil around the tree making sure the stem remains upright. Use a tree guard or spiral if your garden has wildlife visitors who may want to nibble the bark. Add a length of 1’’ drainage pipe or specialist watering tubing around the root ball of the tree before backfilling, to allow watering in the summer months to reach down to the root area. Tree watering ‘bags’ are useful tools to use also, as they drip water to the tree but they do need topping up regularly. Add a 5-8cm (2-3in) layer of mulch but leave a 10cm (4in) mulch-free collar around the base of the stem. Watering of the tree should be a regular summer practice for the first two to three years of planting. After such an investment of planting trees of any size, giving the best start in life is essential to the success of the plant. There are many methods for tree staking and also specialist ground anchor systems on the market. There are two schools of thought when it comes to helping a tree to establish for the first number of years. Ground anchorage (cables running and securing the root ball underground) allows the tree to move and bend with the wind and allows micro fibrous roots to establish. While staking with support stakes is the traditional method and is quick to install. It is more suitable for some heavy standard trees (large trees) where some protection of the crown is required. The webbing these days is usually made of a flexible rubber belt type material to not mark the bark of the tree. The tying method needs to allow the tree to move and flex but also support, the bracing around the stem is a key point in that it needs to be loose enough to allow the tree to grow and put on girth without restricting the growth. This is the reasoning why the two or three stake method is employed on certain species to allow the tree to move in several directions as the wind blows. Stakes should be removed after several years of assisting the tree gain root mass. I have witnessed over the years where stakes are left in situ and forgotten with the result that the stake has lifted out of the ground as the tree has grown and the webbing has severely bitten into the tree’s inner core, causing damage to a specimen.


Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager |