Diary - 04/07
Diary - April 2007
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April 2007


The willow tree after pollarding, with bluebells in evidence

We cleared the well to allow better access to the water

Relaxing after all our hard work!

A good patch of spring angelica, getting itself well established

The willow stakes are now growing well by the the meditation area to give a little privacy and provide some shelter from the wind

A good patch of vola adorata

The three days of the Easter holiday enabled us to really get to grips with pruning, digging and weeding. We removed a dead field maple from the pond’s edge, killed by squirrels chewing the bark and an ancient elder, covered in ivy. There are two maple saplings growing near by, so we shan’t lose the species from the Sanctuary.

Chris took his life in his hands and sawed the three massive branches with a handsaw. These branches were growing out of the top of the willow tree with the face.


Unfortunately one of the branches fell on the Balm of Gilead Poplar. We were afraid the break at the bottom of the poplar trunk might prove fatal, but three weeks later, the young tree is still growing!


We also trimmed back both a hazel tree and a crabapple tree where the canopy was overhanging the pond. Everything seems to have benefited from the increased light. The mulberry was also pruned so it doesn’t prevent us from seeing the view from the veranda. Now we have massive piles of wood waiting to be burnt or made into fencing posts. The maple was taken up to the barn to be used for wood turning once it has dried out sufficiently.


My father cut the grass for the first time, so I spent the morning of the first day raking up the clippings and taking them to new compost heaps by the fence or under the trees. Maddy came and help us dig on the Saturday, which was a great help and enabled us to finish everything we had planned. We finished the bottom herb bed that day and then Chris and I attacked the top herb bed, which is riddled with stones, on the Sunday morning, clearing a space around the hops and making room to replace the various varieties of echinacea.


It was really good to see the Solomon’s seal tips coming through the earth as I weeded their area by hand, rather than using a fork. I was able to rake over two sections in the bottom bed to plant calendula and ox-eye daisies. Large goats rue plants were transplanted to a clearing by the rowan tree next to some lemon balm which was coming up amongst the nettles.


Returning to the Sanctuary on April 28 was a revelation in growth! The Solomon’s Seal were three foot high, their white bells dangling underneath the leaves and the wood betony were doubled in size. The comfrey had also grown two feet and was flowering happily, as was its wild counterpart on the top bank. Red campion was blooming everywhere, while the angelica flower balls and yellow flowers of the woad were just about to burst into bloom.


Despite removing bucketfuls of potatoes during the initial digging, there were still several plants which had to be removed before I could plant out the new bergamot and thyme plants in the bottom bed. It was good to see the dyers woodruff growing well and spreading and I even stumbled over a tiny goldenseal which I thought was lost. The black cohosh was about nine inches tall inside the canopy of angelica leaves, so I used a few of them to make some infused angelica oil while I was planting!


The calendula seeds were sprouting as was the ox-eye daises. So many calendula have self seeded where they grew last year, I haven’t had to plant any more. I was really pleased to see the first shoots of skullcap growing through the soil. There were so many weeds thrown out of their section and so many roots left on top of ground; I was worried no plants would come back. The two boneset plants were also making their first appearance, which was very pleasing as one plant did not like being overshadowed by the angelica last year and half the stalks rotted before they could be harvested.


I’ve planted some lovage in what is becoming a “culinary herb” area, since the chives, sage, fennel and chocolate mint are all growing nearby. Somehow the electric fence had been left off and rabbits had eaten nearly all of the Echinacea pallida middle plant. Luckily they’d not eaten anything else. They don’t like motherwort, goats rue, angelica and woad!


Along the top fence, all the trees are in full leaf from the strange shapes of the gingko biloba to the new evergreen variegated myrtle. The agnus castus has already grown taller than I’ve seen in previous years and the two cramp barks are looking so profuse, I’m wondering if they need they wire protection any longer. In contrast, the marshmallow looks very sorry for itself and probably needs more water.


I’m hoping the sunflower seeds will prosper in the shelter of the Soloman’s seal. Last year we planted them out along the fence where they were all eaten by next door’s cattle desperate for food! This new bed is the home to lots of mullein rosettes, which seem to have over-wintered well. The grass, thistles and other weeds were growing spectacularly well, but I decided to dig them up or there won’t be any space to plant out new seedlings such as holy basil and milk thistle which are germinating under my mother’s tender care. I found two borage seedlings, one at the four leaf stage (two petioles and two actual leaves) and the other already a foot high! Maybe Chris can be persuaded to attack the line of nettles and grass growing underneath the fence itself as I didn’t have any energy left by the end of the day!


Before we left, we went hunting for the spotted orchid which grows on the bank of the pond. After much searching and “plant blindness”, I found three patches, each with one – three plants, so it is doing well. The meadowsweet are also colonising the bank growing down near the water in the sunshine, so I’m hoping for a good crop this summer.  


I’m also hoping to propagate new plants using heel cuttings. Large numbers of purple sage cuttings lie dotted inside and outside the bungalow and I took some cuttings of the orange thyme, which I’ve not seen anywhere else. Mixed with lemon and broad leaf thyme, it makes a lovely tea.



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