Harry and Alan at work finishing the side poles.
Harry and Alan have been busy further developing techniques for dressing the Entrance Poles.
And nearly finished – Grotesque Welcome (3)
A very successful work party was led by Andrew, with 4x other volunteers in support, with 8x scouts and 7x parents in attendance. Tony Cragg from the Welwyn Film Record Society was kept busy too.
Sarah supervised all the plantings, which were performed by small groups of scouts, each with a parent/helper. Sarah had marked out planting places in advance and each group got digging.
All roots were dusted with Sarah’s magic root powder. Specimen trees were staked and protected with rabbit wire.
Whips around the perimeter were protected with plastic tubes.
At the tea-break, John gave a brief introduction to the work in 1859/60 of the original Fernery Gardener, Anthony Parsons, and the rock-work construction by James Pulham & Sons of Broxbourne.
A few of the parents helped further by clearing out the water and debris lying in the dropping well.
All the scouts enjoyed themselves, and it was a first-time visit to the Fernery for many of the Parents.
The scouts are expected to pick up a hat-full of badges and awards for undertaking this valuable work with the Friends of Danesbury Fernery volunteers.
We reported last month how a small team led by Harry erected the Fernery Welcome sign at the top of the Entrance Poles. See a Welcome Sign.
The next stage of the project to restore the Entrance Poles to their original state took a step forward on 1st December when Harry started trials to dress the poles in tree bark. This is how they would have been dressed originally, and termed ‘grotesque’.
This first experiment involved fixing battens with wire, and then nailing and gluing the bark to them . There will probably be several trials before we settle on the best method.
When that is done, we will select a final ‘live dressing’ of either ivy or some other evergreen climber which we hope will bind it all together.
See the next stage – Grotesque Welcome (2)
The Following Report is written by Colin Adlam
On 27th October 2018 a small group from The Friends of Danesbury Fernery (FODF) met in Welwyn for a convivial drive up to Norwich for the regular autumn social get together of the British Pteridological Society East Anglia Group (BPS EA). Thanks go to Andrew for driving myself, Sarah and Harry all that way.
A visit en route to – The Plantation Norwich
The Plantation is a restored Victorian garden in an old chalk pit very close to Peter and Nick’s house, where the BPS EA Meeting was to be held. Before the start time of the EA Autumn Meeting we therefore took the opportunity to visit the Plantation under Nick’s guidance. Go to The Plantation -Norwich for a separate report.
The BPS East Anglia Group Meeting – attended by Andrew, Sarah, Colin and Harry
After our visit to The Plantation, everyone was pretty chilled so warming coffees pulled us away from the Fern haven of a front garden, rising in steps to the house. A very friendly welcome and a quick tour highlighted Peter and Nick’s love of India, as well as Peter’s vast and impressive collection of ferns. More impressive is Peter’s knowledge of ferns. Later we wandered outside again for the plant (fern) sale and got a chance to explore the front garden delights again and discover that the rear garden is similarly profuse with Pteridological delights.
We four had interesting conversations with attending BPS members over lunch provided by our hosts. There is a great deal of knowledge in the group, as I’m sure there is in any enthusiastic and specialist organisation.
With most members comfortably seated in Peter’s lounge Andrew began the presentation of Danesbury Fernery. With much interest and questions, and the other three of us chipping in occasionally, I think we ran over our time slot a little, but nobody seemed to mind. There was surprise at how much had been achieved in such a short time by a relatively small volunteer group at Danesbury. I am sure we can expect a good group of BPS members when they visit Danesbury on Saturday 20th July 2019.
Two more interesting and varied presentations took us on tours of foreign lands with ferns in the forefront and many splendid photos. Time constraints meant we had to make our excuses and we packed the boot of Andrew’s car with our purchased ferns. Some were for individuals, but the bulk have now been planted at Danesbury.
If you wish to see the individual plants and know where to find them just catch Sarah or myself on one of the working party days. We moved many of the Dryopteris filix-mas (male fern) and Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich, or Shuttlecock fern) to ‘themed’ beds under trees to make room for the more interesting varieties.
Ferns being ferns, they will look a bit sad for the winter, but with the return of warmth, and some moisture, I am sure they will look beautiful by the summer next year. The themed beds should slowly become impressive as they form homogeneous banks.
On a bright morning, eight volunteers turned-out for an ad hoc meeting arranged via the WhatsApp ‘Fernery Gardening Group‘** .
The single task was to work with Sarah, our Garden Adviser, who had laid the plants in position in the newly profiled Parsons Bed, and to start planting them.
The Parsons Bed is in the sun for longer periods of the day, and is therefore drier than the Central Bed.
Sarah’s planting objective therefore is to plant ‘Tropicals’ in the Parsons Bed which will thrive in those conditions, using plants that the Victorians themselves would have chosen for that position, and designed to complement the planting in the Central Bed.
Together with purchased stock plants, some beautiful plants were donated by the volunteers themselves.
The Planting List included:
yucca gloriosa, purple sage, cistus, sedums, carex grasses, phormiums, euphorbia, bluebell ‘river’ ferns (various) including dryopteris and asplenum.
It is planned that the Borough Council will bulk deliver material to the site, timed for mulching to be a main task at our next Working Party on Thursday 18th October 2018.
** WhatsApp – ‘Fernery Gardening Group‘
If you are a Friend of Danesbury Fernery, and have a mobile phone, and would like to join the WhatsApp – ‘Fernery Gardening Group‘, please contact the Administrator John Roper
At the 20th September 2018 Working Party, Mark with Maydencroft’s digger, opened up the two large holes in the cattle fence on the East side of the site, in preparation for the scouts to effect a sound repair by making a wire ‘envelope’ into the ground, and up the existing wire fence.
On Monday 24th September Explorer Scouts (in great numbers – 26 in total) completed the task of laying the wire and tying it to the existing fence, before filling in with soil.
The scouts divided into two groups who, in rotation, shared the task of actual wiring up, whilst the others were entertained with a 30 minute guided tour of the Fernery itself.
It was very gloomy when the work was completed at 7.15 pm and the more enterprising scouts had to use torches on their mobile phones to see how to stack the unused wire, tools and the wheelbarrow back in the shed.
The Fernery volunteers are grateful to the Scouts for their help, and these photos taken a few days later show what a good job they did, under the direction of Keith Ingrey, their leader.
The following is reported by Colin Adlam
For the June 17th Open Day, I planted some spare ferns from my garden, leaving them at that stage in their plastic pots. Most of these have survived thanks to the teams’ brilliant watering efforts throughout this exceptionally hot summer. Wasn’t it glorious?
All those new ferns that survived have now been properly planted in the beds where they were located, as the beds have now been properly dug-over. Only one or two ferns were lost completely, and those can easily be topped up later in the year.
I also trimmed any totally scorched fronds on other plants and can report that many of those had new croziers popping their heads up. We should see some good growth in a mild damp autumn.
All the ‘Tatting ferns’ up the back wall of the dropping well have survived, and I hope for a good show of an interesting decorative fern next year.
In response to a request for projects that will encourage community involvement among scouts of all ages and abilities, the WHBC Landscape & Ecology Department has proposed to Tony Lyall, Mid-Herts District Commissioner, that groups of Explorer Scouts (14-18 year olds) might ‘rabbit proof’ the cattle fence which surrounds the Danesbury Fernery.
This news will come as a great relief to the Danesbury Fernery Gardening Group who have had to watch their new plants getting steadily attacked by local rabbits. Not that the volunteers have stood by and done nothing – on the contrary – rabbit/chicken wire has had to be painstakingly fixed around the outside of all the new planting beds, with some success. No rabbits or chickens, but some slugs, have been getting through.
But with new planting beds being developed and planted up, the better long term course will be to keep the rabbits out of the Fernery altogether and, in so doing, ease the maintenance of the planting beds and further improve their appearance.
WHBC’s Ann MacDonald has provided the scouts with the following Specification which includes an ingenious reward never offered to regular volunteers!
In principle, the task is to fix rabbit fencing to an existing cattle fence, I will have a machine scrape back the soil before you start and the task would be to fix the rabbit fencing to the existing cattle fence and then tread back the soil. Gates will require closer thought, perhaps a design problem the Scouts can wrestle with? It’s a simple task but there is a fair amount, not a whole field, but probably 600 linear metres.
I should think you’d need to schedule 6 work parties, we will provide the materials. We could supply pizza at the end of each work party for a job well done.
We have to hope that scouts will find the promise of pizza more compelling than do the rabbits find the promise of succulent geraniums, and that they take up the Invitation to rabbit proof the Danesbury Fernery for us before our next major planting exercise scheduled for Autumn 2018.
Ed: The truth will out, Tony Lyall admits that: the District has 4 Explorer Scout Units, each of which averages about 15 members though we never ever get 100% attendance at anything (unless there’s free pizza) so we can either look to do one big project or maybe 4 smaller ones.
During the week of 14th May 2018 Mark and Richard from Maydencroft removed all the rocks from the large Central Planting bed, then re-shaped and re-profiled it, before edging it with large stones. James and Im0gen finished it off by bedding the edging rocks with soil so that they looked as though they had always been there.
Ann MacDonald decided to cover the Central Bed with a weed suppressing membrane and on 18th May with Sarah and Andrew, they spent a couple of Happy Hours at Rochfords Nurseries selecting plants. It took three trips to transport all the plants back to the Fernery.
Some plants were planted straight away.
Early on Saturday morning 19th May the first of a two day planting session started. After Sarah had marked out where each specific plant should go, the Fernery Gardening Group swung into action. Generous watering took place before the task was completed and the process was repeated on Monday morning 21st May 2018.
Hopefully, before 17th June 2018 Open Day, a mulch of bark chip and compost will be spread all over the bed to complete the job.
All the plants will be added to The Planting Record in due course.