Hastings Battleaxe gets a pruning at Fairlight Hall

Went on a Pruning Workshop yesterday, organised by Ore in Bloom, and led by Peter, the Fairlight Hall Head Gardener. 
     I heard about it via the Women’s Institute. Yvonne, who is in my Book Group, is the mother of Sara Kowitz, the Ch√Ętelaine of Fairlight Hall. She (Yvonne) lives at Mallydams Farm on the estate. Oh, that reminds me, talking of the Book Group, we had a good afternoon this week at my place watching the film of ‘The Help’, which we read a few months ago. Just the thing for a wet, dank afternoon, a good movie, tea, cake, and even home-made popcorn (someone arrived with a machine!).

Fairlight Hall

     Battleaxe has also undertaken to organise a gardening group for the WI. Trouble with me, I’m a bit of a fair-weather gardener. This morning we woke up to thick fog, and dark dampness shrouding everywhere like a wet blanket. Fortunately it brightened up a bit or else I would not have emerged at all.
     The last time we went up to the Hall the weather was also temperamental – it was back in the summer, for a piano recital. It was held in the courtyard, and the wind rustled through the trees so loudly you couldn’t hear the bloke play. We gave up at the interval, and had a peaceful stroll round the gardens all by ourselves.

     Anyway, about 12 turned up for the pruning.
 Philosopher was somewhat outnumbered by ladies d’uncertain age – several WI types were there.  It was
surprisingly pleasant out in the garden. We squidged about in the leaf
mould, looking at the optimistic new buds and shoots. It was damp and
romantically misty, with a very interested robin keeping us company
while singing his little head off. The fog lifted, and we even had a
glimpse of blue sky, but then rolled back again.

Pruning a climbing rose

     Peter really knew his stuff, and seemed a really nice bloke, so he got bombarded with questions.
    We wandered down the long herbaceous borders looking at roses and shrubs, learned how to renovate an old apple tree, including how to graft new bits on, and then moved into the massive walled
kitchen garden via the many varieties in the fruit cages. We learned
about espaliered peaches, figs and grape vines, and then had a look
round the lovely restored Victorian glass houses.  There were loads of
over-wintering scented geraniums, which interested me, because I have
some also.

      Clearly, no expense is being spared in terms of renovating and
maintaining the gardens. The estate is 85 acres, and Peter has a staff
of four gardeners working with him.

Misty view

     The garden is wholly organic, and furthermore, they are currently

starting an experiment whereby cultivation takes place according to the phases of the moon
     I didn’t realise that when you see ‘Biodynamic’ wine for sale, that means the grapes that made it have been cultivated according to lunar and planetary patterns as well as other organic techniques of 
composting, fertilising etc. 
     Turns out that Biodynamics was developed by Rudolf Steiner – he busied himself with a lot of stuff.  It all sounds a bit crackers to me, but it will be
interesting to see how it develops.

     After a morning out in the damp, it was good to finish up in the ‘Bothy’ for coffee and cakes. Everything in my life seems to have cakes in it – I am getting no thinner…..

Narcissi in the glass house
A glimpse of blue sky

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