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Life Under Lockdown: A Christ Church Diary

Written by John James, Head Gardener at Christ Church, posted on Friday, May 22, 2020

Our fourth blog looks at Christ Church’s gardens and the Meadow as seen through the eyes of our Head Gardener.

Memorial Garden with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’. Photo by John JamesIn common with much of the UK, the garden team were put into lockdown on March 24th and since then there have been no members of the department on site, although we are now working on plans to get at least some staff back in. We have been very lucky that the Clerk of Works and one of his team have been able to be on site and have kept the plants in our nursery watered and have been able to keep on top of much of the grass cutting: huge thanks are owed to Steve and Andy! 

I have been able to pop in and carry out some essential jobs and it has been gratifying to see the plants growing away, oblivious to what is going on. The Meadow is largely unaffected and apart from the normally short areas of grass cut for public enjoyment beginning to look like a farmer’s hayfield, all is well and the wildflowers are actually benefiting from the hugely reduced number of visitors trampling on them.

What is obvious, though, is how quickly nature starts to reclaim our best endeavours and weeds are beginning to take over the paths and paved areas where normally thousands of trampling feet wear them away and prevent them establishing. These will, of course, need to be controlled to prevent them spreading, but without doing so, it is obvious that nature would take over very quickly. We may well find out how true the old adage “one year's seeding, seven years weeding” really is.

Overall, I like to think the long-term effects of lockdown should be minimal, but in the short term, a lot of hard work will be needed to get back to the normal standards. Our plans for Summer bedding in the Rose Garden, School Quad, etc have had to be radically altered as we have not been on site to grow the necessary plants. The back-up plan for the Rose Garden will be to direct-sow the beds with wild cornfield annuals which will be an interesting experiment and should hopefully provide a bold Summer display.

From a personal viewpoint, I am lucky enough to live in a small Oxfordshire village and I have been able to enjoy my daily rural walks. I have been greatly inspired and uplifted watching the changes in the hedges and verges as the season progresses and I have a renewed respect for nature and the countryside. On the first day of lockdown, I walked across a field being drilled with wheat by the local farmer and it is now, despite the dry weather, well on its way to becoming a fine crop. I look forward to seeing it being harvested, but hope we will back to some kind of normality by then.

For updates on how things progress and to see highlights of the Gardens and Meadow, please follow my Instagram account: @christchurchgardener