16 February 2023

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The long Winter continues (as least it feels long). The garden is just waiting to spring back to life and not a minute too soon for us in the garden team. After months of cold weather and some really hard frosts, along with snow, we are ready to move forward. There are glimpses of colour with the Winter aconites and snowdrops, coloured stems of the Cornus and Willows and fragrances from the winter flowering Viburnums and Wintersweet trees (Chimonanthus praecox) and Daphne’s.


                                                                                  Above; Winter aconite 

There will undoubtedly be some casualties to some of our plants given the severity of the frosts. Emmanuel College Gardens are not alone in this either. A trip to the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens at the weekend confirmed this. Many of the other college Head Gardeners are also keeping their fingers crossed for minimal damage.

The dormant season does however give us an opportunity to do some replanting. Last Summer, the large Buxus Topiary Balls in Chapmans Garden had been severely attacked by Box moth caterpillar. It was only a matter of time before those plants succumbed to this devastating pest. Due to the large size of these box plants, treatment was difficult to keep these at bay. We did continue to spray the plants with an organic natural pesticide as well as feed the plants with and organic feed in a hope to keep them healthy, however it was fighting a losing battle.

With every disappointment in gardening there is an opportunity. It was time to remove the sad looking plants and give Chapman’s border a fresh new look. Out went the old plants and in came three new specimen features, the biggest being a mature Turkish hazel tree (Corylus colurna). We also added two Redblud trees (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’). These new additions give Chapmans garden a complete new facelift and will add a fresh new look to viewers from Fiona’s (the Hub). There is also a new sundial to look forward to once put in position.


                                                         Above; Left to Right; Planting in Chapman's Garden 

We have also been taking advantage of the time of year to add some extra planting under the Dawn Redwood tree (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in Chapmans by adding Sarcococca plants for fragrance as you walk over the bridge.

As Head Gardener, most of my attention is turning to the planting of the new build. The mature trees in South court are just about planted and the planting of the Yew hedges have begun. The site is still under construction but we are just about ready to start planting up the rest of the landscaping around the buildings. It will make a great difference to the ambience of the courtyards and soften the harshness of the buildings.


                                                                          Above; New Plane trees in South Court 

The garden department are also looking for a new facelift. At the end of February our gardener Jonathan Strauss will leave the garden team to pursue his dream of working for himself. Although it is sad to lose such a talented gardener, we wish Jonathan every success in the future, and thank him for his contribution to making Emmanuel gardens what they are today. We are currently advertising to replace Jon and Phil who retired in December.


                                                              Above; Young Horticulturist of the Year Final 2022

The last piece of news involves the announcement that I have been having to keep secret for some time now. We can now announce the Emmanuel College will host the Young Horticulturist of the Year Grand Final. This is a huge achievement for the college. The national competition will put the Emma gardens in the limelight once again, following on from being announced an unmissable garden by the RHS and Cambridge Gardens Trust last year. It truly feels like a golden age for the gardens.

Best Wishes, Brendon (Head Gardener).

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