Summer officially began on the 1st June, according to the Met office and our gardens at Cressing have responded to the warmer weather and long days; they are full of life and scent and a few transient (both welcome and unwelcome) visitors. The roses are at their best in early summer and those on the trellis have recovered well from being taken down when the new trellis was installed. The scent of the Kazanlik rose (Rosa damascena ‘Trigintipetala’) is wonderful, especially on warm days. Do visit soon to experience it!
Since our last newsletter a lot has happened at Cressing, including the decision to apply for charitable status which will greatly help maintain and improve the gardens for the future, as well as a complete overhaul of the gardener’s shelter corner.
Our AGM was held in March and reports from Committee members and Rebecca illustrated just how well the Friends are doing; fund raising has been excellent, mainly as a result of plant sales, member numbers have remained strong and the gardens are really thriving with the input of Friend’s funds.
The main business of the meeting was to discuss with members the idea of applying to become an unincorporated charitable association. This would give the Friends benefits such as gift aid on subscriptions and donations and access to various grants. The proposal was passed and the following changes will have to be made to the constitution:
- A name change to the ‘Friends of Cressing Gardens Charitable Association’.
- The appointment of at least three trustees whose duties are clearly defined to ensure that they accept ultimate responsibility for the running of the charity, that it is solvent, well run and delivers its aims as set out in the constitution.
After the meeting, Malcolm Bryan (formerly chair of the John Ray Trust and author of a biography of John Ray) gave an interesting talk on the life and times of the influential and local (born and died in Black Notley) polymath – botanist, zoologist, philosopher, theologian and author. Ray‘s work on natural history inspired later scientists such as Linnaeus and Darwin.
Essex Herb Group
The Essex Herb Group, which is part of the national Herb Society has decided to join the Friends of Cressing Gardens, to promote the knowledge and use of herbs. Their fundraising will go towards supporting the garden.
If you visit Cressing in this summer you will see the results of a lot of hard work by Rebecca and her team. In the knot garden, herbs (santolina, hyssop, teucrium, rue, sage, curry plant and lavender) have been cut back and the lawns scarified to remove moss and thatch, aerated and fed with an organic liquid seaweed feed which is high in nitrogen and trace elements. All this should result in a lush green sward this summer!
The most noticeable change in the walled garden is the transformation around the gardener’s shelter. The old surface of road chippings and the black walnut stump have been removed and pea shingle laid down. Later in the year some of this will be dug up and brick paving laid down to match the rest of the garden. A generous grant of £5000 from Essex Heritage Trust has enabled us to do this. Beside the shelter (where the dead apple used to be) the new bed has been dug over and planted with gourds and pumpkins and the back gate has been mended with Friend’s money.
An assortment of animals have been found in and around the walled garden this spring. Pigeons have been responsible for pecking seedlings and mice are feasting on an assortment of plants on the plant table (picture shows anti mice buckets on table legs!). The latter is causing extra work for Rebecca as plants cannot be left out overnight and damaged plants need to be nursed back to health. A more welcome visitor was a duck, who decided to nest in a large purple sage bush. After what seemed like an endless wait, 7 ducklings hatched and were guided out to the moat by the Visitor Centre.
Less dramatic changes (but still worth watching out for!) include:
- A wonderful all weather housing for our wicker bee skeps has been built for us by Elphin Watkin. Attached to it is an information board showing how bees were kept in the past. Thank you to both Elphin for the shelter and to Jo Hammond for the skeps.
- The wildflower meadows have been fenced in with our coppiced Dogwood stems to protect them.New pots from the Classic Pot Emporium in Boxted have been purchased using Friend’s money. Some of our larger specimen plants have been repotted, including two rather neglected hawthorns (Crataegus laevigata ‘Crimson Cloud’ – we think).
- At last, the fountain & rill repairs have been done, so the pool won’t need topping up, one less job for the garden team!
The Cullen garden is looking really smart, despite the best efforts of the Cressing rabbit population. Peony and agapanthus seem to be rabbit proof and we hope to find others. A second scarecrow has joined the first, the MIND volunteer gardening project has been extended until October which is brilliant news and a bug house has been built to encourage helpful insects. In particular we would like to thank one of our volunteers, Sue Lewis, who comes in at least once a week to keep the Cullen garden looking really smart and weed free.
After the pruning workshops in January, the orchard looked beautiful with an abundance of spring blossom. Hopefully this will result in a great harvest this year in time for the Apple Day on 4th October.
Events, past and future
We are planning to hold our own Apple Day on the 4th October at Cressing. The East of England Apples and Orchard project will be on hand to identify apple varieties and stalls will include a cider producer from Sible Hedingham, jam and chutney sales from the Jam Shed in Little Maplestead and plant sales. Also on hand will be information on and demonstrations by various organisations and experts such as the Essex Wildlife Trust, the Essex Guild of Dyers and Weavers, the Hardy Plant Society, beekeepers, willow weavers, a florist and Plant Heritage. Refreshments and live music in the gardens are also planned. If you would like to come, please put the date in your diaries and offers of help would be most welcome.
The Friend’s visit to Easton Lodge was a most enjoyable evening with the added bonus of good weather. We were made very welcome, given an excellent tour and fantastic refreshments – as in photograph. The gardens are certainly worth a visit. Volunteers from Easton returned on the 9th June and were treated to tours of the site and plenty of homemade cakes.
On 12th April Deb Hart, a renowned willow weaver held a workshop to make spiral garden supports. It was an enjoyable and very successful day. Held in the craft barn but most of the work done was outside on the grass by the VC.
The next workshop will be on Coming up on 6th July is an introduction to hen keeping. This will be held in and around our new workshop behind the greenhouse. Contact Rebecca for more details and bookings.
Our biggest money making venture, the plant stall has been out and about, thanks to the Cressing herb group volunteers. Firstly to the Langford Museum of Power near Maldon, and then a return visit to Little Maplestead for their church fete. Both events were a chance to sell plants & herb teas and to tell people about Cressing, as well as being really enjoyable. Many thanks to Monika for her help on both occasions. At the end of June Cressing herbs will be making an appearance at the Wild Food and Chilli Fair in Malden. Please contact Rebecca if you’d like to help at that, or any other event.
Flower of the month
Sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis). If you are lucky enough to have this biennial growing in your garden, you will know that it shoots up with the aquilegias and flowers in May and June. It seeds freely, is easy to remove if in the wrong place and is especially valuable at dusk when the petals seem to glow and the scent is at its best. Part of the mustard family; the early leaves and the flowers can be eaten in salads. At Cressing, it can be found in the nosegay garden.
Thanks and Reminders!
As always, thank you all for your support. Special thanks go to those that volunteer on a regular basis in the gardens, at plant sales and behind the scenes. Two new garden volunteers have joined us this year, but more are always welcome. There is plenty to do in wonderful surroundings – as a bonus, sessions always include tea, chat and biscuits!
Most members have now re-joined, thank you. Individual reminders will be sent out to those who haven’t yet, if you haven’t got around to it, send your subs to: Jane Palmer, Old Wills, Little Tey Road, Feering, Essex, CO5 9RP. Please include your name and contact details.
The Friends: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Look for the ‘Cressing Temple Garden Friends Group’