GARDENING: A year to remember for home gardening

Standing on the threshold of a new calendar year it`s normal, no matter what your interests or lifestyle, to reflect and make comparison with those that have gone before.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 24th December 2020, 2:54 pm
The Alnwick Garden lights trail.
The Alnwick Garden lights trail.

An estimated 30 million UK gardening enthusiasts will be doing this right now.

This fellow, being one of them, generally considers the following: Was there a good return from home grown crops, fruits, vegetables, ornamentals? Were there any outstanding successes or failures? Do any garden visits or flower shows stand out in the memory? How did our local villages and towns fare in the Northumbria in Bloom competition? Will this past gardening year

live long in our thoughts? Thankfully, there are some positive responses relating to the home

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garden. Fruit crops, bushes, and trees excelled this year, with oodles to pick and in some cases a surplus to store. Vegetables have continued production since spring, and we continue harvesting winter greens. With limited access to ornamental plant plugs we resorted to sowing a collection of older annual seeds stored forgotten in a tin box and they saved the day.

2020 began with our main seed order to hand. It's placed early in case top firms run out of popular varieties. However, we also buy packets of seeds or young plants that catch the eye on regular garden centre visits, along with more bags of multi-purpose compost as young plants develop. Everything was going swimmingly until mid-March and the unexpected lockdown!

Access to seeds, plants, compost, and sundries via mail order came to the rescue but with countless gardeners pursuing that route, it led to telephone and online logjams. On August 12 th Suttons seed firm announced that sales had grown by 2,500 per cent on some days. 80% of these were vegetables. They sold 100 million lettuce seeds, 15 million beetroot and 25 million herbs. Their conclusion being that the demand was from traditional gardeners ordering more also newcomers to gardening cultivating vegetables for the first time. A recent Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) communication to members reflects that an estimated 3 million UK residents became new gardeners in 2020.

I`ll remember 2020 as the year this garden of ours illustrated as never before how important it is to our wellbeing. Not only in providing the occasional fresh edibles to help sustain the body but also a brilliant environment in which to maintain a mental equilibrium!

I love my garden but don't normally spend every day working in it. Volunteering activities in The Alnwick Garden, visits to notable gardens in the region and throughout the UK, flower shows, and Northumbria in Bloom activities account for the occasional absence. However, each of these has been inaccessible for prolonged periods in this most unusual year.

When lockdown came, it did much more than put our visits to gardens at Alnwick, Howick, Cragside, et al on hold, it surely impacted on their financial outlook. No footfall, no income, possible staff furloughs. Yet the plants, lawns and weeds kept growing. Somebody had to tend them! Charitable organisations such as the National Garden Scheme (NGS), British Red Cross, Hospice Care North Northumberland, were affected by this too. A chink of light came after first lockdown when, booking online at NGS, we were able to visit a cluster of Craster Gardens in limited numbers with social distancing. What a joy and relief that was.

Chelsea Flower Show was booked but disappointingly cancelled like all the others, then they decided to go digital, so we enjoyed a week of virtual activity online. Warkworth Flower Show bravely decided that they would celebrate their 149 th exhibition online and printed a full schedule.

Neighbouring parish entrants were invited to assemble their exhibits, take photographs, and send in entries. A team of photographers were organised to assist if necessary. The lady of the house and I judged the horticultural section via those images. That was a summer success.

Most uplifting visit of the year came recently, with an evening tour of The Alnwick Garden Christmas Lights Trail, anti-pandemic requirements observed. Wow! Here's hoping for a return to some form of normality for everyone in 2021.