When we re-open the Gardens – whenever that will be – we know that social distancing will be a ‘new normal’ for some while…
So, the (still working) team here have been thinking about what that would look like. We want to help people feel safe when they come to visit, and know that others are looking out for their health too. Shops and supermarkets are using yellow floor tape and painted circles…that’s not quite the thing we want to do in our historic Garden.
We’ve come up with a number of ideas and one of them needs your help.
Smile Stones … have you seen them about?
There is a lovely phenomenon of people painting pebbles and leaving them in the environment for people to find, to make them smile, to think and sometimes to collect and pass on. (PS the advice at present during Covid-19 , is NOT to pick them up and move them – just a precaution)
Smile stones are a little piece of everyday sharing and of spreading love. We already have a few in the Gardens deposited (with permission) by local people.
We think stone and pebble smiles stones would make wonderful social distance markers all around our garden… Every 2 metres a bright little stone hedgehog or ladybird, or perhaps a heart lifting message to keep you going on to the next marker?
If you’d like to take part in helping brighten up our Gardens walking routes we’d love you to start now.
Below are some facebook pages and other things about how to paint stones.
How to get them to us
We will leave a plant pot attached to the (inner) gates of the Gardens – you can just pop your stones in there, and we’ll keep them ready for when we open (if the pot disappears , just roll your stones under the gate and our gardener will pick them up when she visits..)
Thank you – do pass on this activity to anyone you think might enjoy taking part.
PS … don’t spend money getting fancy paint… do what you can, a coat of clear nail varnish will do the trick – or any outdoor varnish you have in your diy cupboard – over the top of house paint/kids paint or marker pens will do!
It is now time to give your borders some attention. All the sunshine and showers means the garden should now be at its vibrant best. Remove any faded spring bedding at the end of the month, it’s served you well but it’s time for a change and old bedding can be put in the compost bin to go back on the garden next year as mulch.
Once the risk of frost has passed (what do you think?), plant out summer bedding and ensure it is kept well watered so it can establish.
Ensure any perennial weeds are swiftly removed and hoe off any annual weeds , don’t let them get the chance to flower and seed as this will greatly increase your workload. Tie in any shoots of climbing plants in your border. Plants like clematis are easier to manage when offshoots are short and young, if you allow them to get too long it’s almost impossible to prise them away from other plants they get tangled up in without snapping.
If you want hanging baskets plant them up now and allow them to establish for a few weeks in a frost free space make sure that when you put them out you keep them well watered, pick off the dead flowers and give them a liquid fertiliser feed every few weeks this should keep your hanging baskets flowering throughout the summer.
You can start to harvest rhubarb this month, twist the stem at the base of the plant but ensure you leave a few stems on each crown.
Don’t strip it bare as the plant needs to be able to feed its own crown. Continuing with this theme on the vegetable plot, if you have asparagus ensure that you stop cutting to leave some spears to grow at the end of the month. They produce a lovely ferny foliage which is
needed by the asparagus crown to capture sunlight to replenish its crown for next year. Potatoes that were planted in April (oh yes they were!) can now be earthed up, by drawing up mounds of soil up around the plant this will help the potatoes create more tubers from the buried stems and increase your crop.
You may have been mowing for a few months now, but it’s time to establish a regular routine. Mowing weekly will ensure you get a denser turf. A denser turf means a better looking lawn and less opportunity for weeds to establish – No don’t be tempted to do it too often because your ‘just want to get out there!’
We love treasure hunts of all kinds in the Gardens..
We know too that there are lots of other seek and find activities in and around the Gardens, the historic Parkland and the village locally – Pokemon Go of course, Wizards Unite and our own ‘Mystery Mutts’ Doggy Treasure Hunts.
But how many of you know there are also some ‘geocaches’ around and about? Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game where participants (Geocachers) use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver (a smart phone! ) or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world.
A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value.
There are over 6000 caches hidden around Birmingham and the National Trust are now recognising that geocaching is great for families to get outside together… so do we.
We’ve been wanting to develop some caching trails for a while- both inside and outside the Gardens – but while we now have the time to think about it, we don’t have the experience..
So …. Calling all geocaching fans and experts. The challenge is to create a geocaching trail for the Gardens (and maybe spreading outwards too). Can you help us out?
What do you think would work? How many caches makes sense on our site? What would our swag items be? Would there be a theme to them all? Can we make special events for families?
Obviously we cannot get into the Gardens right now, but we’d love to work with you to think about something in summer and autumn…please contact us if you can help… and share with any geocaching chums too
“The best thing about it is you will be taken to places of interest and beauty that are on your doorstep that you never even knew existed.”
Volunteers have been central to pretty well every event and activity in the Gardens for decades, we are really missing their input and daily conversation.
So many people also contribute in the background by making, doing, cooking and inventing. Here is one thing which anyone could get involved in and help us with… if they wished.
Bunting is jolly. Full stop.
We use it for decorating the stretch tent for events, for cheering up the entrance gates and courtyard, making intriguing spaces in the woodland area even more intriguing…
We would love more and welcome anyone’s efforts in making it during our lockdown. We can’t supply the materials Im afraid, so anything you do will be gratefully received as a donation.
We are happy to have any designs you make… triangular and cloth bunting would be used more often, but knitted, paper, square, animal shaped or anything would be lovely… Maybe we can use them all to make a jolly festival atmosphere on our return to opening – we’ll all need it.
We know that, over the centuries, the Gardens were a place where much music was played and enjoyed.
This May we had planned a 35th Anniversary celebratory romp through our history, this was to include some wonderful young musicians from Birmingham Conservatoire playing music from the times when the Gardens were at their peak in the late 1600s and early 1700s.
The small building at the end of the Holly Walk is known variously as the Music Room and the Summer House. Scholars from the Gardens, our sister site Weston Park and from the Conservatoire even have records of music manuscripts and what music parties were held.
We like to continue the tradition of having all kinds of music played outdoors on our site….
Today, let’s just celebrate the Spring and imagine this somewhere under our apple trees in the Orchards..
This piece is from the Fairie Queen by Purcell, which premiered in 1692 in London at the Dorset Gardens Theatre.
The music was written as part of a ‘Restoration spectacular’, a ‘masque’ or semi opera. Effectively it was a blockbuster show full of fancy costumes, amazing stage effects, music, songs and ballet all wrapped round Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream…
This short song is near the end of the Masque – the Queen and King of the Fairies – Titania and Oberon are in celebratory mood and are singing praises of the seasons..
Thus the ever Grateful Spring, Does her yearly Tribute bring; All your Sweets before him lay, Then round his Altar, Sing and Play
Who knows, Bridgeman family members, keen musicians, may at the time have purchased the manuscript of some of these airs and played them here, in Castle Bromwich.
It may not be everyone’s favourite choice of music.. but let’s hope we can all be grateful to Spring… I’m sure Titania and Oberon are already in the Gardens ..
Bugs are beautiful…. even before they become butterflies.
Although gardeners aren’t always keen on caterpillars eating their crops, we do love watching the fluttering colour of butterflies in the Gardens.
Eric Carle’s famous book – The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a favourite of ours. Here are some lovely colouring pages and worksheets supplied for free by one of our suppliers (earlyyearsresources.co.uk) all based on that lovely book.
Click on the link to download Hungry Caterpillar activity sheets
And, you can see and hear the book, read by Eric Carle himself here below. You don’t have to share the experience with a young one…but you can 🙂
Really gutted we couldn’t do our Alice in Wonderland Easter Egg Hunt this year… Maybe we’ll turn it all upside down and send it through the Looking Glass and do something later in the year…. when things are ‘normal’ again.
If you and the littl’uns still have room for bunny and egg based fun, take a look the lovely online present we just got from our lovely friends at REEP.
REEP work in the UK, Spain and Morocco with people and gardens. Our own asst. gardener, Tanya, has been lucky enough, twice, to help them out at a girls school in Morocco.
Have a look below for some online puzzles and games with an Easter and a Gardening theme – for grown ups too, don’t be shy. Their are word searches, poems, puzzles and some gardening ‘how tos’
Click on the picture below to go to their page to explore….
A few hints and tips from our excellent Gardener’s for the month of April:
Things should be moving along pretty quickly now the highlight at the start of the month has to be tulips and with April’s sunshine and showers plants are growing at pace but there are a few things that you can do at the start of the month to reduce your workload later on.
Applying a layer of mulch around trees and perennials before the warmer weather arrives not only will keep the moisture locked in but it will stop a lot of weeds from emerging saving you valuable time later on in the season that can be spent doing other important garden jobs .
Give your plants a feed, trees shrubs and hedges will benefit from a slow release fertiliser. Roses are especially greedy plants feeding will aid flowering in June. You can buy specialist rose fertiliser but any fertiliser that contains a mix of potassium nitrogen and phosphorus will be beneficial.
Sow any hardy annuals now in their final positions these fast growing plants are a cheap way to fill a border with colour during the summer plants such as pot marigolds, Californian poppies and cornflowers are good choices. Those annuals that are a little more tender and don’t like the cold can be sown undercover now in pots and placed out once the risk of frost has passed.
In the vegetable garden it’s time to plant out your potatoes, early crops can be planted at the start of the month and main crops at the end of the month. Courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can now be sown individually in 5cm pots undercover and tomatoes, aubergines chillies and sweetcorn should now be sown undercover as they need a long growing season to produce their fruits. Don’t forget to thin out any seedlings that were sown in March, in order to reach their full potential plants need space as well as sunshine and showers.
It’s a good time to completely empty any compost bins for mulching. Hibernating animals should now have woken and moved on, but still be careful as you don’t want to spear any frogs or hedgehogs with a garden fork.
Stay safe all, and hope to see you again soon. The next Gardener’s tips will be posted at the beginning of May CBHGT x
We had hoped to keep the Gardens open for ‘contactless’ walks and explorations – especially for our younger visitors who like to experience the magic of all the intriguing spaces and easily accessible nature.
Until we can do that again, here are some of the inspirational people and ideas who are now sharing on the web to help keep you and your young ones creative and active at home or in your garden.
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