Can you grow green fingers? (part one)
Gardening is the skill that brought man culture and civilisation. Our primordial ancestors had to learn it from scratch in order to lead us away from a hunting and gathering existence towards plenty and mastery of our environment. But if you weren’t able to learn it at your father’s knees, can you learn it from scratch? HOT’s Chris Cormack investigates what an ingenue might learn from a top practitioner.
When asked to write about a series of lectures on gardening at Fairlight Hall, I thought, Well, if they can teach me how to grow green fingers, then they can teach anyone! Looking at the schedule of lectures (see below), it is interesting to see that much emphasis is placed on planning and preparation. Is that my problem? Do I take my taoist philosophy too literally?
Taoism values spontaneity, letting things ‘follow their nature’ (ie the ultimate in laissez-faire) and ‘wu-wei’ (= do nothing). That’s why the mint in my kitchen window-box has overrun the basil and almost everything else – survival of the fittest and nature green in tooth and claw at its ultimate. I always persuaded myself that I valued ‘nature untrammelled’ as an excuse for not cutting the lawn this week. Besides, gardens are for frolicking in and I like my frolicking nature. I’ll tell you next week whether I learned anything.
Anyway, there is plenty to learn from a head gardener, Peter Godwin, who has introduced organic procedures to Soil Association standards and has made such a wonderful job of these beautiful gardens despite the exposed position more than 500 feet above the sea nearby.
The new series of garden talks will run through from May to November. In the informal setting of the Hall’s beautiful recital room, Peter Godwin will guide you through a number of subjects to inspire you in the garden: ranging from growing cut flowers for the house to the seaside garden and plant propagation. Each talk will include a guided tour of the garden (good wheelchair access throughout) and a light lunch cooked in-house using home-grown organic produce. There will also be a plant and
gardening equipment stall to help you get started with your own gardening projects.
Fairlight Hall sits in some 90 acres of grounds including pleasure gardens, woodlands and flower meadows. Since the organic regime began in 2002 with particular emphasis on soil preparation and maintenance, the increase in bird life, native mammals, insects and wildflower has been exponential. Mowing is minimised, traditional meadowing widespread, and chemical pest controls and fertilisers rejected. Hobby birds, wasp spiders, fire crests, solitary bees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, kestrels and owls are regularly seen and heard. More than 50 bird and bat boxes have been sited throughout the grounds to encourage nesting.
Lunch and a Lecture series 2015: A series of garden talks at the Fairlight Hall recital room, Fairlight Hall, Martineau Lane, Hastings TN35 5DR. £35 per person, to include a light lunch, a lecture and private garden tour with head gardener Peter Godwin. Buy tickets.
Would you like to join a small friendly team, helping to look after the amazing gardens and learning as you work? Try volunteering.
HIPCC Prizewinners’ Recital Series: Summer Recital July 5 @ 3-7pm. £20.
Specialist and Continental Plant Fair 2015 September 19-20.
Also in: Green Times« Fairlight Hall Gardens
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