Preparations for Christmas are well underway here at Ashburnham. We start getting ready late November as the Grounds and Gardens team are partly responsible for decorating the house for the Christmas dinners that are put on throughout December. We make table decorations out of greenery we find in the garden – ivy leaves, Skimmia flowerheads, Viburnum tinus flowers, rose hips, holly and pine cones. We also decorate the fireplaces in the conference rooms and oak dining room. Last, but not least, we make Christmas wreaths to sell in the Orangery but also to give as gifts to staff and those living onsite. Some of our volunteers who usually work in the Catering or House teams get the chance to come out and help with this if they want to. It’s been lovely to work alongside some of the volunteer team who we don’t normally see out in the garden. This year we hosted wreath making workshops for the first time and 14 people came along to learn how to make the straw bases and then decorate the wreaths. Everyone enjoyed themselves and went away with beautiful wreaths for their front doors!
Jim demonstrating how to wrap straw round a willow ring to make the base.
Using our specially adapted tent pegs (thanks Gordon) to insert the wired pine cones
One guest’s finished product
This time of year we are also busy putting the garden to bed where we can – while dodging showers and high winds. Jim has had volunteers helping him put thick layers of compost down in the walled garden. He has also been working on the forced rhubarb, composting the plants then covering them with upturned dustbins. Last year we had a magnificent rhubarb crop from these plants.
In the Ornamental gardens things are quietening down too although there are still plenty of weeds to deal with when weather permits and some gems to discover. This winter flowering Camellia is in the Winter Garden and provides a real floral treat at this time of year. The pruning of the climbing and rambling roses in the gardens is an on-going project, as well as the pruning we are trying to get rid of the ivy growth on the walls as we go and also need to do some re-wiring to provide a good structure for the roses to grow along. One of the major changes over the last few weeks has been the introduction of a full recycling programme here at Ashburnham. We have bought a heavy duty shredder which can deal with almost anything. We have always composted our garden prunings, grass clippings etc but now we are also adding vegetable waste from the kitchens and cardboard and paper from the house. Shredding the waste means we can mix it and reduce its size, thus speeding up the composting process. Gordon has also established an anaerobic system (based on the Bokashi system that you can use at home) which will turn meat and other food waste into compostable material. It is all very exciting and we are all getting into the new routines of sorting our domestic and commercial rubbish into various categories. It feels like a significant step forward in our commitment to creation care. So, as we prepare to celebrate our Saviour’s birth, the Grounds and Garden team wishes you a very Happy Christmas and a fruitful 2015. One of my friends goes out every Christmas day and counts how many different plants are in flower in her garden. I’m going to try and do that here this year and will let you know the results. Why don’t you give it a go in your garden and let us know what is flowering for you?