March 2023 – open doors again

Somehow or other it is March and the garden is open to visitors. For all January seemed to go on forever, time has moved swiftly towards the moment when the gates open to welcome you all back. Worryingly, it has been very dry and we could badly do with some rain.

It seems madness to be saying that when it did nothing but rain in November and December but this seems to be the way of it now. It is either feast or famine with rain.

The volunteers have all been working like Trojans, clearing away the foliage from the borders, pruning the fruit trees, turning over the soil in the Kitchen Garden and seed sowing and planting fit to bust and spring is definitely in the air.

The snowdrops have been brilliant, the crocuses not so much, the pheasants clearly had a big feast. The buds are now starting to fatten up on the apple trees and I’m looking forward to the first signs of apple blossom in April.

Not that I will be here every day to see it. This is my last column for the Gazette as I am retiring at the end of March. When I was small, I always thought that retirement was for people of a great age. Suddenly I find myself here still thinking this which I am having a strong word with myself about.

I’m certainly tired but not ready to stop actually doing stuff. I want to pick up all those hobbies and interests I haven’t been able to squeeze into weekends. I am looking forward no end to lavishing care on my own garden, now that I don’t have to be stymied by the fact that it seemingly rains every weekend (well it felt like it in November).

But I will miss the garden. I will miss watching it unfold day by day through the seasons. I have been here since 2010, starting as a gardener, then beginning to market the garden in between gardening. Laterally, the marketing has ousted the gardening but fear not, I am hatching a cunning plan. I will give it a goodly break but I would love to come back in the future as a garden volunteer (if they’ll have me).

Gardening is something I have a passion for and I have come to miss it in my working life more than I can say. On the plus side, I’ve made Helmsley Walled Garden better known as it should be.

Some of the highlights include successfully fundraising for our existence during the pandemic, becoming an RHS partner garden, being Best of British in Country Life and seeing the garden look so beautiful on Robson Green’s Weekend Adventures.

This is a special place, a garden designed to restore the people who walk in its walls. It makes a difference to so many people, not least the over 100 volunteers who work here in the garden and kiosk to mention but two places but its visitors too.

I must have talked to hundreds of visitors over the years and with a miniscule number of exceptions they have been enchanted and it has been a privilege to be part of that.

I hope I’ve inspired you, even a little to get out into your gardens or to visit this one. Thank you for all your comments and encouragement, it’s meant a lot. And in the future, if you see someone up a ladder wrestling with the Laburnum Arch, it’ll probably be me so say hello

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