The
Little Sparta Trust
The Garden
George Gilliland began work as the new Head Gardener at Little Sparta in February 2012. He is currently helped, on a part-time basis, by Ralph Irving and monthly reports detailing their activities and experiences are published here. Click on the images to view enlargements.

March 2017

Preparations for the new season continue with the painting of the Claudi Bridge (terre d'egypte) the Cube Form (porphyry pink), and the stone fruit baskets Silence After Chatter (county cream). All wooden benches, the aircraft carrier model and plant boxes have been re-treated with oil for preservation and to enhance their colour.

At the same time the Claudi pool has been weeded out and further down the waterways pond weed pulled out and the edges tidied back.

The aqueduct from the centre pond has been repaired for leaks and is running well again. There is plenty of water but still lots of silt at the source clogs up the system - it is easily and regularly got running again.

Stone slabs forming a bridge passage have been stabilised over the lower pond aqueduct and the ground either side banked up for future ease of access with the mobility scooter - the site for the new shed / garage for this has been made ready at the entrance.

Snowdrops are just about over and now we have the first daffodil blooms.

Erratic weather systems blow through - gales, sleet and snow storms - then in glaringly bright days everything warms up ready to get going, only to be followed by the return of grey wintry skies.

The broken wooden gate at the bottom of the track - the car park entrance - is repaired, and a small repair also made to the main entrance gate - The Fluted Land - which seems to be very slowly and gradually sinking - it will one day need to be repositioned.

The new stile (An Escalation of the Footpath) has been completed - and awaits only the carving of its inscription to be finished.

Other pieces - a repair to the base of the Liberty column in the Temple garden - a small section of stone flaked off but was found and just about seamlessly reattached. The repaired stone pavers - schooner, yawl, corvette, caravel - have been put back in position.

Now also a full round of grass cutting and scraping off leaves, twigs and mossy residue in all the lawned areas. The path edges have been strimmed back - reseeding will be required again in some bare patches and hopefully germinate quickly.

Seeds have been ordered and planning done ready for the Kailyard and allotment.

Wee new born lambs abound in the fields around the garden. A joy to see and hear.

After the equinox and the clocks going forward - the fullness of spring is tantalisingly close. For a few days at least of glorious sunshine - in every stem and branch - the promise of burgeoning blossom and leafiness.

February 2017

Repairs of artworks are ongoing and many of the restored pieces have now been completed awaiting collection and reinstallation.

The main job this month though has been the jet wash cleaning of the brick and stone paths and patio areas - which is made more difficult by our familiar water source problems - silting, freezing and airlocks - once it is running again it is just a question of working through all these areas in the Front and Temple gardens and into the woodlands.

There is a decision process of what areas or level of moss to leave and what to clear away. Not a random choice but decided by the positioning of works and practicality for ease of passage.

The greenhouses too have been cleaned out and left prepared for coming season - all is spic and span.

Continuing renovations in the front garden mean preparation and planting of new trees - by the Appledore bench a few new apple trees - James Grieve, Howgate Wonder, Bloody Ploughman. And in the Roman garden all the old cypress has been removed and replaced with yews which will grow into a fine formal hedge enclosure.

By the front entrance also in the car parking area, a few plantings of greengage, weeping birch and others will in time edge this area in pleasant dappled shade and add to the western wind break.

The grass in the English Parkland has been cleared as much as possible of late fallen leaves, twigs and branches. Another bonfire awaits.

For the most part now we have enjoyed mild clear days - then a spate of storms - we have not seen the last of the snow and frost. But in the bright sunshine snowdrops dominate - filling the ground like tom pieces of fallen cloud.

Here are the first signs of spring - flights of returning oystercatchers swoop overhead, and in the ponds the repetitive throaty burblings of the frogs mating chorus.

January 2017

The first snows have come and gone, but for a few days at least the garden was stranded in the depths of winter. Inevitably this brings with it too its consequences - once all the whiteness has disappeared - there is a collapsed section of stone dyke at the entrance - this has been rebuilt. Also the wooden gate at the end of the lane - the car park entrance - the top bar has split: a temporary repair with metal strapping is holding this together, but it will probably need a sturdier repair or replacement later on.

The wooden stile at the top of the garden (An escalation of the footpath) which had rotted through is being remade, and should be in place for the start of the new season. The smaller stile at the back of the Temple of Apollo which marks the public right of way is also being repaired.

In this area too a site is being cleared and prepared for a new shed to house mobility scooters which will bring further access to the garden. A few more trees have been planted around here and wood chip from the clearances in the front garden has been spread as mulch and weed suppressant.

The water source on the hill has been both freezing and clogging up with silt but is now running again.

A bit more pruning of trees and collecting fallen branches keeps the woodland in order.

A new silver birch has been planted in front of the St Just column base in the front garden. When the weather improves the remainder of replacement trees for the Bring Back the Birch, the sunken garden and Appledore bench areas will be planted. More yews will also be planted by the Roman Garden continuing the renovation of this part of the garden.

The logs left from the tree felling have been stacked away in the wood shed.

Drainage pipes at the bottom of the Parkland and at the back of the lochan have been rodded out and cleared of the heavy ochre silt which blocks them up and leads to the ground around here being saturated. These are now running freely again.

The first bulbs are now peeking through, but the only actual thing in bloom at the moment are the yellow flowers of winter aconites which shine bright against the dark earth like little lemon bon bons.

The ground is heavy - when it is not frosted all is muddy and sodden - the clouds sit flat and low. Spring seems a long way off.