In the first in a new series of blogs from our Head Gardener, Piers Lunt, we explore the changes that are taking place in the Park and Gardens this March.
March is living up to the first half of the old saying ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’; let’s hope the second half also holds true!
We’ve had some furious weather over the last few weeks, but despite the best efforts of gales, floods and frosts to take the upper hand spring has sprung in the Bishop’s Park, and we’ve finally turned our backs on a hard winter, if not quite yet for good.
Wildflowers that have been making sporadic appearance since late January are taking advantage of longer days, lifting themselves up in hope of discovery by early pollinators braving the still muted temperatures. Look out in particular for celandine, open when the sky is bright and closing against the rain; and primroses that are virtually untroubled by any inclement weather, somehow maintaining their poise even when faced by the full-throated lion’s roar. The snowdrops came a little later this year than last, and true to their ephemeral nature are nearly over, but if quick you’ll catch the last of them down on top of the HaHa and under the ancient common-lime in the Park, nodding their little white heads quietly among glaucous foliage.
The more perceptive among us might notice subtle changes in the trees too. April is the month of most obvious growth, as buds en masse begin to break and leaf out, but for now you’ll notice them swell and sometimes change colour too, a development that never fails to instil the excitement of expectation in me. It’s this pause before the new season really blooms that quickens the blood or, better perhaps, raises the sap.
We are also witnessing changes in the wildlife too. Love is undeniably in the air for our feathered friends…
Some, like the collared dove above my office door at the Lodge, are already incubating eggs in fresh nests, with others still gathering materials and building with purpose. I’ve seen my first honeybees of the year too, taking advantage of the increased warmth of the Walled Garden, adding daffodil to the bulging pollen baskets on their legs while drinking deeply of its nectar.
If you regularly spend time in the Park you cannot fail to have noticed significant development over the last month. Afan Landscapes are back on site, starting with development of the Jenkinson Garden, our homage to its namesake and the formal design he constructed in the area in the 1830s. Our redesign not only mimics his circular garden, but also primarily uses plants that would have been available to his gardeners. Inspiration was taken from John Claudius Loudon’s Encyclopaedia of Plants from 1843. Incidentally, it appears Loudon was a contemporaneous inspiration to Bishop Jenkinson too; so we are bringing things full circle in more ways than one.
Once complete Afan will be moving around the east and south of the museum, converting the old tarmac path to our new hoggin surface, knitting it together with the sections improved last year. I know this is something many people have been waiting for – it’s just a few short weeks away now! Thereafter we’ll have a fully restored and integrated, vastly improved, major path network; it even, by and large, survives the floods.
But let’s hope we’ve seen the back of those for a while.