With a spring in our step
Every gardener well knows the thrill and mounting excitement of Spring. The garden begins to shake off the mantle of winter and starts to hint at balmy summer days full of colour and heady nights full of scent to. Things move quickly: snowdrops come and go and there are the first primroses with daffodils and fritillaries fast on their heels. By the time the tulips appear the speed of change is dizzying.
At Glyndebourne the whole company seems to share in this renewal, as everyone prepares for the new festival. The shop is being re-stocked, press and marketing campaigns are being prepared and the programme book written. On stage, glimpses of new sets and familiar ones being brought out from storage; in the company canteen, old friends and new faces. And then, one day in March, the first sounds of a soprano rehearsing will drift across the garden. Spring has arrived, full of the promise of summer.
The gardeners are hard at work to ensure that, during the festival, the gardens will be as uplifting as anything to be seen on stage. But the gardens need to be a welcoming place all year round: as well as being part of the home of Gus Christie and his family, they are the working environment for the Glyndebourne staff and provide a welcome for the artists and technicians now arriving for rehearsals. The regular garden work includes making sure that the areas around the opera house are as colourful as possible during the rehearsal period. Pots of spring flowering bulbs are used extensively, and last autumn Dannielle de Niese lent a hand in planting up the dozens of pots of tulips and narcissi that are placed around the building in Spring.
Each spring, head gardener Kevin Martin, and his team, undertake a specific project to improve the gardens. This year they have been working at the entrance to the gardens near the car park, removing a tall yew hedge that had become overbearing, and replanting the area around a venerable apple tree with a bed of Rosa ‘Glyndebourne’. Last year a Handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata, was planted here: the species was introduced from China at the beginning of last century and one of the first specimens to flower in Europe was at Glyndebourne. In flower it is a glorious sight and one, we hope, that will add to the welcome for visitors.
Another project that had been planned was to tackle the area at the head of the lake around the old boathouse, which had become overgrown and messy. In removing the ivy and the thicket of shrubs, we discovered that the area was collapsing and had become dangerous to anyone walking around it. The boathouse was built by John Christie in the 1920s, so had lasted a reasonably long time. In order to renovate the area, the level of water in the lake had to be lowered and a new retaining wall built, the bricklayers incorporating stone into the wall to mimic the style of the other buildings at Glyndebourne. The work developed into a very expensive project, which was made possible by the generosity of supporters to the Annual Fund.
The area around the old boathouse is popular with picnickers, and we hope that they like their new, renovated picnic site. The gardeners have also created several new, secluded picnic areas in the wild border and in the Bourne garden; we hope that audience and performers, who have reacted favourably to the seating areas sequestered in the Urn garden, will also appreciate these new areas in some of the more tucked-away parts of the garden.