28 February 2024

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February has almost gone. Most of it was disrupted by the rain again, with just the odd exception in the form of a sunny break in the clouds. I think 2023 and the start of 2024 is one of the dampest gardening seasons that I can remember in 30+ years of gardening. For some, it has been a welcome spell compared with the previous seasons’ long hot spell. I suppose that, as a gardener, you must be careful what you wish for. On the plus side, the temperatures have been on the mild side. There have been good signs of early spring growth. We have even had to make an early start to our grass cutting schedule as the grass has put on significant growth.

February is always a busy month in the Emmanuel gardens. It is the phase where we are preparing for the coming seasons ahead. We have been busy maintaining all the college benches during the wet spells. Every year there seem to be more benches to maintain as, unfortunately, the number of memorials has not slowed down.

It is also time to start repairing some of the many pathways throughout college as they get worn and damaged through the winter periods. The Garden Team have been busy making a start on these repairs.

This task has been made a little easier this year due to the garden department’s latest addition. The department welcomes Martin Place to join our fantastic team. Martin joins us as our Landscape Gardener and has brought with him his 25+ years of invaluable experience. Prior to joining Emmanuel, Martin had been proprietor of Saunders Landscapes, which had an excellent reputation in the industry. We will tap into Martin’s skills to help upscale the rest of the garden staff.

Martin will be very busy in the next few months as we have lots of exciting projects on the horizon. I am delighted to announce that, after many months of hard work and an untimely delay, we have eventually had confirmation of the funding required for the Emmanuel College Community Garden. We will be shortly making a start on the building of this, with hopefully some of it being ready to use this year.

We are also busy trying to re-landscape the swimming pool area after several months of construction left the grounds in a bit of a mess.

Over the next few months, the Gardening Department will be collaborating much more with the college sports ground. I am keen to work with our excellent Groundsman, Mark Robinson, in a closer partnership, which I think will benefit both the sports ground and Emmanuel gardens. I am keen for college sport to return to its pre-Covid days and will be working with Mark to ensure we are heading in the right direction.

The Emmanuel gardens themselves are starting to wake up. The earliest signs of spring bulbs are poking through. It always gives us gardeners a sign of hope for warmer days to come.

In March (on Monday 11th), we are delighted to welcome Charles Dowding back to his old college to give us a Masterclass and an evening talk regarding his now famous ‘No Dig’ philosophy. It’s not every day a celebrity horticulturist comes to Emmanuel, so the department are very excited. There are just a few spaces left if you want to join us. Booking is through Emma Experience and Daniel McKay.

Best wishes.

Brendon Sims, Head Gardener

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