19 January 2023

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Returning to work in January is never easy. This coming year we are full of hope as to what might be. The excitement of the new build planting schemes, a major announcement for the College in Feb (more to follow), the longing of Spring days and t shirt weather again.

What we were actually greeted with was the fallout of all the cold, icy, snowy weather that prolonged before the Christmas break. As pretty as the wintery scenes were, it did hang around a little too long. In this country we are not quite used to long spells of cold and snow (at least in the last few decades). Snow is usually here for just a day or two and then quickly melts away. Last year saw temperatures drop below -10c and also with a wind chill factor of well below that. That ice and snow lay on top of our borders for two weeks or more.




All last season’s planning and growing was taken away from us within just a few weeks, with some plants already struggling from the excessive heat and droughts of the Summer of ’22. The year 2022 will go down as one of the most challenging of my career to date. However, I was not alone. Many of the other College gardens also suffered. For those that know me well will know that I am forever the optimist. That glass is never half full or empty, it has just had a few sips from it. For every disappointment there is an opportunity. A chance to look forward not back. The gardens will look great, one way or another.

One opportunity that we look forward to is welcoming our new apprentice Izzie Hare. Although she technically joined the Emmanuel Garden Team in mid-December ’22, it was a get to know the team period before started with us here in the gardens and also at college studying at King’s College Cambridge. Izzie has fitted into the team very well and we look forward to teaching her new skills and plant knowledge through ’23 and beyond. 


Part of that opportunity will be part of the new Landscaping projects connected with the Emmanuel new build. We get to the part that interests us gardeners the most. The mature trees have been delivered and started to be installed. It starts to give structure to the built environment and softens the otherwise dominating buildings. The connective spaces between these buildings is the most interesting in my mind. The ultra-modern facilities that the buildings offer are amazing and are indeed a very welcome sight to new users. I, however will be more interested in how people use those connective spaces. The mature table pruned Plane trees behind the new Hub look magnificent in their skeletal form. They will provide shade in a hot courtyard and at the same time clean the air. The Plane tree is a superb urban tree, storing carbon at its root source whilst removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. A real pollutant filter.



So, as we start to accelerate into ’23 we look at lessons learned from the past but look to the future. A future full of promise and anticipation. I will look forward to sharing this progress with you in future installments of this blog.


Best wishes

Brendon Sims (Head Gardener)

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