Posts made in May, 2023

May 2023

Posted | 0 comments

Looking back to Easter, which seems a long time ago now, we were very pleased with our first event of the year, the Children’s Easter Activity Morning on 8th April. A great success, with lots of new families joining in. Indeed, we’ve never seen so many people in the Challis Garden! It was a delight to see so many happy faces, enjoying a traditional Easter event. All the activities were well attended and the mini-pondlife display attracted a lot of interest. Many thanks to everyone who took part, with special thanks to the many volunteers and helpers on the day.

Our next garden event is the Open Garden on Sunday 2nd July from 1pm to 5pm, joining three other Sawston gardens to support the National Garden Scheme (NGS). Homemade teas will be served from 1.30pm to 4.30 pm from the Challis House, and there will be plants for sale. The NGS is an important charity, raising about £3 million annually to support key nursing and caring charities. Please do come along to view the gardens, enjoy some refreshments and contribute to the NGS. Entry fee £6 per adult covers all four gardens. See the separate article on page 24 for more details.

Looking forward, a heads-up for Sunday 6th August when the Newmarket Town Band returns to the Challis Garden for an open-air concert, sponsored by the Royal British Legion. This was entertaining and fun last year – here’s hoping for some good summer weather and a good attendance.

We are counting the cost of winter losses in the garden due – mainly – to the severe cold and snow in mid-December. Overall, it’s not as bad as I had feared. A few shrubs (myrtle, hebe, buddleia, cotoneaster, Brachyglottis (Senecio), Choisya, Viburnum tinus) died or were badly frost-damaged. However, Hypericum (St John’s wort) and hydrangeas are recovering well. Among the herbaceous perennials, salvias, penstemons and phormiums have all been lost. Surprisingly, all our dahlias appear to have survived, putting on good growth now. Most gaps have been filled by dividing or moving plants, as a result we only need to replace a few plants. The garden team have been busy raising bedding plants (begonias, geraniums, zinnia, cosmos, Echium and rudbeckias) to fill the remaining gaps and for pot displays.

None of the mature trees suffered winter damage and, indeed, have produced excellent blossom. Apples, plum, damson and cherry avoided any early frost damage this Spring, but the heavy hailstorm on 5th May didn’t help! However, there appears to be good fruit-set so the signs are promising for good crops this year. Fingers tightly crossed! Golden rain trees and false acacia should produce good floral displays in early July, along with Deutzia and mock orange. Look out, too, for foxgloves, delphiniums and red campions flowering in the coming period.

The wildflower meadow in the centre of the main lawn is growing well. Cowslips showed well in March and April; there seem to be more each year. Other species are now shooting up, leading to a peak display of dog daisies, knapweed, campion and bedstraws in June and July. Yellow rattle is a key species in the mixture: it suppresses grasses, allowing native wildflowers to flourish. Enjoy the show! Elsewhere, we have embraced ‘No Mow May’, leaving many other areas uncut. It will be interesting to see what flowers and insects show up. This summer, we are participating in a ‘citizen science’ project to observe which types of pollinating insects are visiting native wildflowers, and to identify which wildflower mixtures support the most diverse range of pollinators.

The cool and wet conditions from March to early May have resulted in a strong surge of plant growth. We are working hard to keep on top of mowing, weeding and deadheading but may look somewhat rough around the edges for a while. Hopefully all will be in perfect order for the Open Gardens in July! If you have time to help out in the garden during our regular opening times, please join us or drop by for a chat.

Our latest exhibition, Voices from the past. How did your street get its name?, has proved very popular with Sawstonians. Our stand at the Spicers ground on Monday 8th May attracted a lot interest and discussion. The exhibition will continue in the Challis House, at 68 High Street, every Tuesday and Saturday from 10am to noon for the foreseeable future. If you are interested in local street names, do drop in to learn more. It’s fascinating and very informative!

The main gate to the garden will be out of use periodically, as building work continues, so please use the side gate on the left-hand side of the car park. Apologies for any inconvenience. Visitors will see that the blocking paving path across the car park now extends up to the entrance of the new building, providing good access for everyone. Internal work continues with ceilings, walls, flooring and electrical installation in progress. With fair weather and a reliable supply of materials, there is a good chance the building will be completed by the end of the summer. Let’s see…

Mike Redshaw

Read More