The February sunshine keeps feeding the urge and the need to garden - in between storms
We plant Balfour willow as a shelter plant here in Orkney: it withstands our winds and affords a greater choice of plants within its protection a chance of survival. However, as I write to you today, my most established willow is waving like a politician at a rally desperate for votes… Effective shelter in our garden is still a good few years off and we have to balance it with our determination not to block our view of the sea. In gardening, as in life, compromises have to be made.
Being part of the team volunteering at the Marengo Community Garden in St Margaret’s Hope, our nearest village, allows for the indulgence of normal gardening enthusiasms. Instead of being above a windswept beach like at home, the Marengo is snuggled into a very protected site and is a haven for locals and visitors, for those who want to garden and those who simply want to sit.
When we visited South Ronaldsay in October 2016 and were looking at where we would like to live, we saw a sign to The Marengo and met Lesley and Trish. They had been the mainstays of the garden since it was established over twenty five years ago. Lesley became a close neighbour when we moved here but is sadly no longer with us. Trish however is back gardening after a new hip, with a wealth of knowledge as to what is planted where, what does well in this particular part of Orkney and which walls around the garden are our responsibility to keep upright!
Fuelling much of the renewal at The Marengo is new volunteer Jill, here waiting to be interviewed with Trish by Cameron Stout from BBC Radio Orkney. Jill is a newly retired lecturer in horticulture and landscape design, currently awaiting defences to take hold/be erected for her new hilltop garden, so the Marengo is getting lots of attention from her pruning saw and secateurs. She gave the Garden Association an excellent lecture on The High Line in New York. Community gardens are so important, vital spaces and green lungs in cities and villages alike. I started a Community vegetable garden in Sussex before we moved and Incredible Edible, a guerrilla veg gardening project that began in Yorkshire, has become a world-wide movement. Community Gardens matter.
The Really Big Marengo Cutback happened at the end of November with the front hebe hedge being pruned hard - we hope it will survive - exposing rich ground for ferns and bulbs. Shrubs around the garden which needed attention had similar treatments and everyone gardening was sustained with a hot lunch: guess who did the cooking? And the results are clear to see in the February gallery below. All the pictures were taken within about 30 minutes of each other. That’s gardening in Orkney. One minute it’s blue skies and the next a hail storm.