Great Hockham Gardening Club Corona Diary - February


We all have our favourite time of the year, perhaps for some, some time in the summer – and I would not argue with that. But I am going to put a word in for now. The days are now noticeably getting longer – from both ends and new shoots are starting to show. Indeed, at the time of writing, early February, we have snowdrops. Everything is to come. So for several months the garden can only keep on improving.


Nigel and Laura Lincoln are developing what might be called a topically themed feature: Hi Ed, January activity has focused on a new island bed (creatively called the ‘lockdown bed’), which we have created by taking off the top few inches of grass from a mole-infested area. The bed incorporates an existing smoke bush (Cotinus) and a euonymus, which were planted last year. To form the basic framework we have added a (very small) Sambucus (black elder), a (very, very small) dogwood (Midwinter Fire), and a forsythia (grown from a cutting last winter). We also bought two bare root roses to add to the mix: Chinatown (yellow) and Charlie’s Rose (red/pink). It will take a few years for any of these to get to a decent size.


I am trying to fight the temptation to use the new bed as a dumping ground for homeless plants in pots and those that need moving to avoid crowding elsewhere – but making it a more planned area than most in the garden is proving difficult. The only other area with any action is the narrow strip of woods where snowdrops are finally emerging. There are crocus, daffs, fritillaries and bluebells along the border between the trees and the grass. I would be stretching the truth to call it lawn, but they are fighting to get through a tangle of nettles, pennywort and other weeds.


This month’s job is to clear that border to help the bulbs and to give somewhere to plant woodland shade lovers later in the spring. February’s star is a Daphne that is flowering and smelling wonderful. Finally, we have been talking about adding a pond for a long time – but that will have to wait (again). If we had dug it before Christmas it would certainly have filled up on its own by now. Happy gardening, Nige & Laura.

Sue Thomas is feeling a little seedy: Hi All, I can honestly say that I have lost the month of January totally!! Nothing has been done in the garden, as so many other issues have raised their ugly heads, so it looks like the rest of February will be manic. I have listed and am about to make my seed order, but before I do I must go through the vast boxes of seeds that I have collected since year dot, and throw out all those that are absolutely certain not to germinate. I was hoping to acquire some seeds from our Club's "Seed Swop", but that now looks unlikely to go ahead. We may possibly be able to have a garden meet towards the end of February, if it stops raining, and we could all bring our seeds at that time!! I have nearly 100 packs to get rid of, from pumpkins and tomatoes to sweet peas and marigolds. So wonderful to see the primroses and hellebores coming into flower, followed quickly by the iris and daffodil bulbs. Spring is on its way! Keep Safe, Sue T.


Jane Dalton is getting fit for the New Year. Hello again. February. Must say last month did seem to go much slower to me. Maybe it is because I have started exercising again in the mornings and it is not so much of a pleasure, but more something to endure so that I dare show myself when we can eventually get out and about and meet people again! Not that I have lost even a pound, but I do feel better and more flexible. Maybe I'm losing inches - or is that wishful thinking? I've even stopped slugging the wine - Don't faint! Still have the odd low calorie G & T.


I dread gardening again as my arthritis and thumb are so bad despite paying a small fortune privately for an injection, which sadly only helped for a month, and now they won't do them again because of Covid! I can see a few snowdrops and aconites out and daffodil buds in the garden, so spring must be around the corner. Just wish the weather would brightenup. Lots more birds/song in the garden too. We had a bird box with a camera in for Christmas and have put that up so can't wait for some to move in!


Our seed potatoes have arrived and are now 'chitting' in the garage. Usually we have the first earlies in the poly tunnel by now, so everything will be late this year. We have also taken delivery of a Victoria plum tree and lots of packets of seeds. I am looking forward to better weather and being able to get outdoors again. I have never known it so wet, so many areas flooded that I have never seen happen before.


Hooray! One of our Leghorn chickens is laying - we have one egg every other day now, I can hear her crowing about her efforts as I write. (Actually, just checked, and it is one of the Norfolk Blues so even better - two of them laying!). It really does seem wonderful to me. They run over for me to pick them up now! They are such funny characters.


We have managed to get out into the forest for some lovely long (if soggy) walks with the dog when the weather has allowed. Otherwise we have stayed at home on our tod, so not much news to tell you. I have even resorted to Tesco 'Click and Collect' even if it has taken me about 2 hours to sort out! Can't get a delivery slot for love nor money! Quite a lot of our friends have had their first jabs, but so far Chris and I have heard nothing: we wait expectantly for a text.


To keep me sane, I have spent the last few weeks doing online painting workshops and making original, one-off watercolour blank cards and even a few Valentines. So if you can't get out to the shops I have them to view in the garage if you need any, all individually priced. Call me on 01953 498694 to arrange or if you would like a natter. I've even resorted to talking to myself, no one else listens! All the best - stay safe and well and good luck with the vaccine! Jane.


Julie Brown says she is not doing much, but as usual, is involved in prodigious amounts of work: Hi Ed, Where do the months go? Got boiler trouble so everything else goes by the wayside.


I have done a few things in the garden, I have dug the last hole in the bog garden, project started back during first lockdown, and sunk the 4th and last tub as a mini pond. Sadly all the hard work looks nothing at the moment, so photo of that later when some things are growing. I noticed the cheeky red leg partridges in the garden three times in the last few days, looking for a new nest site me thinks.


Picture of my new raised vegetable bed, which I had a lot of help with moving and cutting sleepers. Managed to find soil and homemade compost to fill both ends. The middle is going to have to remain empty as that is where we found the inspection hatch to the drains that come down the row from No's 1, 2, 3 and 4 into our garden. Then we join as it leaves our garden by the front gate. Been here 30 years and never seen it before. Covered in a foot of soil and under the lleylandii hedge which we cut down 5 years back and had to dig the stumps out by hand to get the bed in where I wanted it.


Pictures of my broad beans shooting and garlic. Hoping the silver birch twigs will help keep the pigeons off. This windy weather will produce more natural prunings; I have paid for a brown bin from the council I can fill that easily each time.


I have a lovely little speckled hellebore and lots of snowdrops. What a funny little face it has, I wonder on the variety. My Wisley snowdrops are showing leaves but as yet no flowers, they were later last year. The bulbs are coming up beneath one silver birch, lots of crocus, iris and snowdrops. I have planted what must be 1000 bulbs there and I hope they will make a good show. Not many bulbs showing yet in the new bed where the pond was filled in, but I can see the daffodil leaves appearing and fat flowers buds in the hyacinths.


I have started on the Japanese garden; moved some edging stones that keep moving around the garden and dug it over. There are a nice lot of aconites that I will need to dig up and transplant and a few snowdrops and a million and one tiny stinking hellebore seedlings; they will just go in the bin...


I planted up lots of bulbs in pots, the iris is the first to show. She is called 'painted lady' and is very pale and not very interesting...


I received a late Christmas gift from Norway: a hand painted Christmas bauble by a very talented artist in Òlen. I'm going to leave it hung up until Christmas, lovely colours.


My Swiss gentian has just one bud come into flower; I wonder if there will be more, such a beautiful blue.


Mr Archer came to look at my Mum's bonsai horse chestnut; he gave me some suggestions about re-potting it. I haven't been able to find a new pot for it, but maybe we will get it out of the existing pot without breaking it or it will have to go in a plastic pot he thought was suitable, but that needs to happen in the next few weeks, so fingers crossed.


Lots of paperwork to do for the village hall here at Wretham so not a bad thing to be stuck indoors whilst the world looks beautiful under a blanket of snow.

Keep snug and warm everyone, Julie.


Prue and I have been working on our trees, but not of the garden variety. For quite some time we have been thinking about having our DNA analised and finally we have. It’s most interesting: the chemistry produced a number of possible close relatives that Prue had no idea existed. In spite of not knowing of each other’s existence they share an uncle that they both remember. If you want to you can ‘share trees’. On the other person’s tree was a picture, this old grandmother. Obviously her, but a photograph we had not seen. It might seem a bit unsettling, but definitely fascinating.


Now we all know we have ancestors going back forever, but for me anyway, it suddenly seems extremely poignant. Yes, I know there had to be an ancestor back then, but now there is a name - an actual identifiable person - who had siblings - who lived in a particular place - at a time when, for example, Henry VIII was doing his thing. It just seemed to bring us up short. We then did the Google Earth thing to see where they actually lived – usually a village – which has a churchyard – where they might be buried. Looks like this might be an idea for summertime destination. Even if we don’t find anyone, churchyards can be very reflective places to visit. It’s all very clever stuff and highly addictive. Just the sort of thing to combat the lockdown blues.


But there is a drawback to all this: we all have two parents, four grand parents, eight… By the time you get to ten generations there are thousands of them – and one of them will probably have a title! So it is with Prue and now there is no living with her.


My side is equally tantalizing: they didn’t have any titles – the ones I knew just acted as though they did. I am unable to find a paper trail on my paternal line so to find out more I can only resort to the molecules. With new channels opened up by the DNA, there is the slim possibility of finding a relative I actually like.


To start proper gardening we need to clear two beds currently covered by the bonfire, but for some reason I can’t seem to get it started.


We have had the jabs. Finding our way to the Castle Mall car park was quite exciting as the sat-nav had us driving through a pedestrian precinct. The actual car park itself proved an exhilarating experience; the parking bays were clearly the minimum regulation size – minus a foot. Up stairs, then a lift, then passing through more checking points than we can remember. Not to worry, the sat-nav took us home incorporating a sightseeing circumnavigation of the ring road.


Finally, Matt Cunningham remembers one of our club members: Mike Hall passed away after a short illness on Friday 8th January. Mike has moved to Watton, then after a short while moved into a nursing home in Grantham to be near his daughters. Mike, together with his wife Joan was one of the founding members of Great Hockham Gardening Club. He served on the parish council, delivered newspapers around the villages after he retired from his main job, helped with the Horn Fair and played bowls at Watton and East Harling.


Jane also has some memories of Mike: I did note that we celebrated the Clubs 15th anniversary in 2013 which means it was started in 1998. Mike was Chairman - he and his wife Joan started the club and at first we met in the old Chapel in Watton Road and later moved to the Village hall when the Chapel was sold. We had mainly village members then - small club of about 20 compared to later years when it changed to mainly non-Hockham people and we grew to 50+ members in 2000's.


Hope to hear from you all again next month, Ed.


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