Derek – Friday 18th December 2020

Covid has influenced so much this year. There was to have been mince pies and mulled wine for volunteers on Sunday, but the event was cancelled because of the new stricter rules. It exemplifies the way the year has gone. The garden has been going since 2016, and in normal years, we’ve organised music and art events, instruction in growing, composting, and pond dipping. This year, barely any of the above.

Our Cereal Project which went from March to October, growing and comparing cereals, began working with a school, Azhar Academy. That had hardly started when we went into lockdown. The project stayed behind closed doors until we re-opened in late July. Too late for schools, but at least the maturing cereals could be compared by visitors. We had nine of them growing in cardboard boxes. Most grew well, except the rice which refused to set seed, although profuse and grassy. And we learned that sweetcorn doesn’t like growing in a cardboard box, our poor excuse for a prairie.

We had tadpoles in the pond with no one but volunteers to see them maturing. Most had gone within a month, eaten by birds, or predators in the pond, such as dragonfly larvae. By the time the public came back, the tiny frogs had left, to head into further dangers: birds, mowers, drought, and big feet. I hope we get a few back to spawn.

The buddleia grew and grew. Nothing can stop it! Up to 12 feet in 5 months. We had constructed a tunnel through the jungle, to the little house with its shelves of children’s books.

Gateway Housing Association took away a strip of the garden, as they needed it for access to the building site next door, now nearing completion. We were able to fold over the long pergola and so keep it. The snail mosaic had to be moved to the children’s area, near the cherry tree. Earlier this month a new pergola was built, between the snail and the side gate. It will get a planting of climbers in the spring.

The wildflower bed was spectacular in June, when we were closed to the public, but still an OK display in late July when we re-opened. It is a great area for wildlife, with bees, butterflies, ladybirds and an assortment of insects in the assorted flora. The bed is cleared now, and we expect another good showing in 2021.

This year has been a good one for sparrows. We get flurries of them at the bird feeders and on the buddleia. They have most definitely made a comeback, and it’s not easy to ascertain why. Is it less herbicide and pesticide in gardens or less disease? Unlike robins, they all fly off when you approach, being much more timid.

Marigolds have been with us from spring. We even have a few flowering now. I am impressed how they keep going, even as the weather has got colder and the days shorter. I note in Woodgrange Market, they are in bloom along with a few clover.

Throughout the year, garden volunteers have been involved in plantings beyond the garden. Some along Woodgrange (including the market, the station, outside Bereket, and the Learning Zone) and some in the low traffic zones on Odessa and Field Road. We have had more volunteers this year. No doubt because of redundancies, furloughs, and the necessity to get out of the house and do something, these boring covid days.

From midsummer to early autumn, a number of classes used the garden as a sort of hall, including painting and dance, while Woodcraft Elfins and the WI have met here. We had a couple of meetings ourselves until chilly autumn pushed our meetings onto Zoom.

It’s been a hollyhock year with pink, yellow and red giants about the garden. We have sold a lot of their seed, so their offspring will colour Forest Gate next summer. The succulent beds have done well, giving us early and late flowerings, and a few purple gentians brave the chilly wind.

The greenhouse is full of grown-on cuttings, and we have had a couple of successful plant sales. And will likely have another early in the new year. The garden is closing until January 8th, and this blog will take a break too. Best wishes for the season.

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