As I write this blog, the Italian Gardens here at Trentham have been taken over by the Christmas Festival’s sparkle. There’s something quite magical about the Gardens lit up at night (or maybe it’s just because I can’t see those lurking weeds in the dark?). Like most ‘pay for entry’ gardens at this time of year, festive events like this are essential. They enhance visitor experience, drive footfall, and generate income; all vital for us to continue maintaining and developing the Gardens and wider Estate. While these events bring a few challenges for us gardeners (we’re out there doing our best to protect the grass and plants), it’s fantastic to see the gardens buzzing with activity, enjoying the festivities in such a beautiful setting.
If I had a pound for every time I was asked, “What do you do in winter? Surely there’s not much to do,” I’d probably be writing this blog from a beach somewhere! Winter, for me, is one of the busiest times of the year for maintenance, planning, and purchasing for the upcoming seasons. Following my previous blog, we’ve planted all our bulbs for the 2024 Bulb Festival Display, successfully removed the box hedge in the Italian Garden, and started our herbaceous cut back.
We strategically pick areas for early cut back (before the New Year) while leaving some for January. Leaving standing dead herbaceous isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, especially with the recent frosts, but it’s also great for nature. With the extensive herbaceous plantings across the gardens, this task is particularly significant at this time of year. Besides this, there’s the usual winter maintenance: repairing paths, play areas, furniture, tree works, and addressing the wear and tear from footfall and events, especially when it’s wet underfoot. Our historic gardens and landscapes weren’t originally designed for the level of footfall Trentham sees today, so careful management and adaptation are crucial.
Another favourite question I get is, “How are you managing with the ever-changing climate?” Well, at Trentham, we’re really feeling these changes. Just two weeks ago, we had enough snowfall to close the gardens, followed by efforts to de-ice the frozen paths. Then came a couple of high-wind events, bringing down a few limbs, and today, as I write this during our Christmas Festival weekend, it’s a tropical 10°C. The weather is unpredictable, but as a Gardens team, we flex and adapt, especially at this time of year. We use wet days for indoor maintenance and planning for 2024, slotting in all our projects and day-to-day operations. Then, we capitalize on drier (or less wet) days for outdoor progress. When it’s frozen, it’s an excellent opportunity to access areas normally too wet. Just remember to move that tractor before it thaws (speaking from experience)!
I suppose the best part of gardening this time of year is the copious amount of cake and mince pies in the mess room. I’m sure all gardeners can relate. We had a delightful festive gathering with our Volunteers last week at Trentham Church, a way of saying thanks for their hard work and dedication throughout the year, complete with carols and even more cake. Fortunately, ‘cut back’ is a strenuous task that helps us burn off those extra calories!
From all the Trentham Gardeners, we’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.