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Getting Our Gardens Ready

Spring is in the air and our Garden’s Manager, Sian Cooper, is taking you through how we get our gardens ready for the season and ahead of reopening.

This is one of my favourite times of the year. Everywhere there are signs of life, from blossom bursting on the blackthorn and crocus’s opening to catch those early warm rays of sun, to the big fluffy bumblebees optimistically out for their first meal of the year. These late winter days always feel full of potential, like we are teetering on the edge of another rollercoaster year of gardening.

However, the depths of winter are far from dormant for gardeners. While the plants are resting, this is the time of year where the hard work takes place, preparing for the upcoming season. Cutting back, lifting, dividing, mulching, and pruning, winter is the time where we can take stock of the previous season, and make sure that the next is even better.

Getting the Shakespeare Family Homes Blooming

The winter season is also the time for big projects. We installed a stone path at Shakespeare’s New Place, as well as some environmental works at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

The New Place path is the first step in a bigger renovation of that area, which we hope will make it feel like a more integrated part of the garden and help to soften an area that for a long time has been largely hard landscaping.

The path itself is a thing of beauty (you know you’re in the right career when you’re getting excited about paving slabs) which will make the area easier to navigate for visitors.

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Path under construction at New Place

Sustainable Shakespeare In Action

In late November the garden and farm teams came together at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage to build an enclosure in the wilding orchard, to act as temporarily home two pigs from Mary Arden’s Farm.

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Happy pigs investigating their new home (29 November 2023)

The use of animals in rewilding projects is not a new idea, but it is a new approach for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and our Sustainable Shakespeare project.

The idea is that the pigs mimic the work traditionally done by boar and other large herbivores, overturning soil, eating the grass and persistent weeds, and disturbing the dormant seed layer in the soil.

Without the competition of the grass, this gives any seeds in the soil the necessary light and space to germinate. Daisy and Little Piggle, our temporary environmental assistants, made light work of the area we gave them, so now we must wait and see what germinates!

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Little Piggle, the not so little pig
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Daisy, with the evidence of her hard work!

In thunder lightning or in rain…

The tempestuous weather has given us plenty to contend with.

Miss Willmott’s Garden has been underwater twice in the last six months, and three storms hit us between December and February.

We were lucky, and other than having a lot of debris to clear up (and a few fences to repair) the gardens seem to have survived without too much damage. However, the ongoing rain is starting to cause us some problems, so for now, on to seed sowing in the safety of the glasshouse, and back to daydreaming about warm spring days…

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Snowdrop in New Place garden

Sian Cooper, Gardens Manager at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust