Followers of our garden here will remember that the orchard is filled with competing English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh varieties all chosen for their suitability for this windswept spot.
First into blossom on these young apple trees are local variety 'Keswick Codlin', with Welsh varieties 'Croen Mochyn' (pictured) and 'Bardsey Island'. Also interesting to note was the early leafing up of the quinces - an unnamed variety gifted to us by Brantwood, a seedling from the Russian estate of Tolstoy and a new Eastern European variety 'Humbug'.
A very tragic recent night when 4 of our 5 runner ducklings were killed by a badger breaking in to their housing, but on the plus our young orchard has been in blossom for about a week - lovely sunny weather after a few very wet and cold April weeks which had them in cold storage.
In fact a crowd of people helped to name these, our 5 new runner ducklings hatched ourselves from our own Maurice's eggs....
Three full-time residential Land and Garden Internships are now available for 4-6 weeks each, to run between May and the end of September. We are looking for proactive people who are engaged in horticultural study or that of a closely-related subject (e.g forestry) and/or have a keen practicing interest in gardening and land management. Previous experience of practical horticulture is essential.
The produce from Lawson Park Farm farm provides for those working and living at Lawson Park and for food-related projects we run locally, nationally and internationally. The farmhouse is surrounded by woodland and circa 15 acres of land (largely managed organically) that contains ornamental gardens, a new orchard, extensive kitchen gardens, a polytunnel and wildflower meadow. We also keep chickens, ducks and pigs. The gardens open to the public annually under the National Garden Scheme and to visiting specialist groups to whom guided tours are offered. Under the leadership of resident warden - artist Karen Guthrie - the land has been developed over the last decade with an emphasis on productivity, sustainability and manageability, marrying contemporary elements with traditional materials and features.
Duties will include general garden and land maintenance, establishment of new cultivated areas, propagation, harvesting, arboriculture and animal care. Although the practical work is often routine, you will have the chance to develop and further your personal interests as well as having the opportunity to participate in diverse Grizedale Arts projects. You will be paid £100 per week and we provide full board in the Lawson Park farmhouse.
Lawson Park's new orchard of UK-wide heritage fruit varieties has been finished, with the last few trees from Irish Seed Savers - a heritage nursery in Co. Clare, from whom we have the deliciously named Cavan Sugar Cane, Keegan's Crab, Armagh, and Yellow Pitcher.
I've also pruned the trees that went in last winter and added a quince, Serbian Gold.
Every tree has received ample well-rotted manure and / or garden compost, and we are trying a biogegradable fibre mulch mat around each to keep off weed growth for as long as possible.
Here are the varieties we are growing this year:
Beauty of Bute, Cara, Highland Burgundy Red, Pentland Squire, Picasso, Red Duke of York, Sarpo Axona
Our Beemaster General, guru David Walmsley,
kicks off a new season of bee-keeping classes on 4 Thursday
evenings (7.30-9pm) at Greenodd Village Hall near Ulverston, from
March 8th - 29th 2012.
If you are very nice to him he might even be able to fix you up with a hive of bees, and believe me they're rarer than a sunny day at Lawson Park.
Call 01539 721501 for more info and booking.
Many thanks to the hardy locals who joined us to plant some new
trees yesterday - 24 x cherry plums (Prunus cerasifera) at
the rear of the Paddies, and 6 silver
birches (Betula pendula) at the foot of the Meadow, to counteract the exposure
caused by Brantwood's recent felling of their
mature woodland on our boundary.
Luckily, the rain only started once we were all safely back indoors consuming our festive lunch.
At Lawson Park garden there are a few valiant plants still flowering through the recent hurricanes, worth listing here because as the saying goes 'if it works here it'll work anywhere'. Unlike the last two Novembers we have yet to see a hard frost:
Caltha palustris (the marsh marigold - one of the first flowers here and determined to be the last), clematis 'Black Prince' (pruned very late hence flowering very late), buddleia weyerania (a yellow globular form of the butterfly bush), prunus subhirtella autumnalis (a cherry), annual marigolds (calendula) and rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm', and irrepressible yellow daisy-like perennial (pictured).
Good autumn colour in the form of bark, berries etc is found in cornus alba (common dogwood), salix alba vitillina (yellow willow), stephanandra tanakae (a Japanese shrub we have grown from seed). Viburnum opulus (our native guelder rose) keeps its beautiful red berries much longer than anything else.
These last few months waiting, getting excited about the new arrivals and now we discover that Octavia our pig is no longer pregnant. It seems likely that she was pregnant as she stopped coming into season after being served by a boar back in July. This would have made her due next week but because her mammary glands never developed, we have had to come to the conclusion that she lost her litter. From talking to Carole Barr, whose boar we borrowed to cover Octavia, she must have re-absorbed her pregnancy. This sounds quite gruesome but actually it makes sense for mammals that produce large numbers of offspring. If there's a problem with say just one embryo, rather than the whole litter being aborted, that one embryo can be reabsorbed into the body and the others can carry on to full-term.
From looking online, it doesn't seem that uncommon for a pig to lose her litter this way, but in proper pig business this translates financially as 'empty days' and the aim is to minimise empty days. This is done by either slaughtering the unproductive animal or taking it back to the boar as soon as the re-absorbtion is discovered. Fortunately we don't have to think in these terms as she's not our cash cow, so I think we will minimise her empty days by getting another grower in to keep her company. We'll take her to the boar soon and aim for a spring litter.