Blandford Museum Victorian Garden Club
Some years ago a few Museum members got together with the idea of creating a garden on the derelict piece of land at the end of the Burgage Plot in Bere’s Yard. Permission was granted by the landowner, The Charity of William Williams.
A small group of volunteers cleared the ground and over the years it has become both productive and beautiful. Today the garden provides a safe and peaceful space both for gardening and for visitors to enjoy away from the bustle of the town.
Why Victorian Garden in a Georgian Town?
The original concept was to create a garden to complement the Victorian exhibits in the Museum; growing crops which would help bring to life the tools in the scullery to visiting school parties. Reference was made to ‘The Georgian Garden’ an Eighteenth Century Nurseryman’s Catalogue by John Kingston Galpine, held by the Museum, and this has continued to guide the choice of varieties being cultivated.
The aim is to use the space in the spirit of the Victorians’ adventure and experimentation. Each year something new is tried including Tromboncino courgettes, chick peas and the huge-flowered Allium schubertii. This year there is a ‘Pictorial Meadow’ and a large range of tomato varieties.
Unfortunately since the beginning gardeners have battled with a colony of Japanese Knotweed, ‘so grateful to the Victorians for introducing that to England!’ It is ‘managed’ according to current guidelines and marked in the Garden, as many visitors have heard of it but never seen it.
Who uses the Garden?
The Garden is used by the gardeners and by visitors, and for events by arrangement with the Museum. It is managed and worked by the volunteers in the Garden Group which comprises about 12 Museum Members. Some are regular gardeners while others support in the background and at events.
The Garden is open to the community and visitors when the Museum is open. It provides a quiet refuge not far from the bustle of the town and has become a peaceful and relaxing green space for many to enjoy.
In the early days several grants were obtained to fund the paths, railings and gates but the Garden has been entirely self-financing for several years. The volunteers have a wide range of age, background and talents. They are encouraged to follow their passions so there is always something of interest for everyone.
The benefits of contact with nature and sense of community to well-being and mental health are now widely recognised. In the past the garden was used as a safe place for small groups from sheltered and vulnerable communities to enjoy gardening. Discussions are now underway to enable similar groups to be involved again.
New group members are always welcome.
The Garden in 2020
The Blandford Museum Victorian Garden has not been abandoned during the Covid-19 controls. Work continued in the busy spring period, and was safe outdoor exercise for the gardeners. Not all were available or eligible to work but throughout each week enough volunteers turned up to keep the Garden going while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Between them they laid a lawn around two sides of the gazebo and they planted seeds, plug plants and cuttings to fill the vegetable and flower beds. They did a complete revamp of the Museum border, sowed a ‘Pictorial Meadow’ for summer colour and replaced the old hose reel and fittings.
Two of the usual plant sale fundraising events have been cancelled this year: the VE Day/Georgian Fayre Bank Holiday in May and Blandford Hidden Gardens in June. Photographs of the Garden have been sent to the Hidden Gardens organisers for their Hidden Gardens 2020 Photo Collection which in time will be added to the Museum’s Covid-19 project.
Without these plant sales there was a huge surplus of plants, so they were sold via an honesty box arrangement and raised £268 which has been donated to the Blandford Food Bank to support the vital work they are doing in our community.
From the beginning of ‘lock down’ and until the Museum re-opened, the Garden was closed except when gardeners were working. The only way for visitors to appreciate it was through the railings!
Further articles will be added soon