Blandford Museum Victorian Garden

In 2008, a few Museum members had 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 several grants were obtained to fund the paths, railings and gates. Over the years, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Museum Garden Group, the garden has become both productive and beautiful. It is now entirely self-financing with funds raised from plant sales.

Why a 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, which is part of the Museum’s collection and 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. In 2020 there was a ‘Pictorial Meadow’ and a large range of tomato varieties.

Unfortunately since the beginning gardeners have battled with a colony of invasive 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?

“Last Friday in the Garden”, June 2021

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. It is also used by the gardeners of the Museum Garden Group, and for events by arrangement with the Museum.  We were delighted to be able to hold our “Last Friday in the Garden” social event in July 2021, and hope to continue these through the summer.

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.

The Garden during the Covid19 Pandemic

From the beginning of the first ‘lock down’ in March 2020 until the Museum re-opened in May 2021, the Victorian Garden was closed to the public and the only way for visitors to appreciate it was through the railings. However, the Garden was not abandoned. Work continued in the busy spring period, and was safe outdoor exercise for the gardeners. Not all were available or eligible to work but each week enough volunteers turned up to keep the garden going while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The Victorian Garden Group laid a lawn around two sides of the gazebo and planted seeds, plug plants and cuttings to fill the vegetable and flower beds. They also did a complete revamp of the Museum border, sowed a ‘Pictorial Meadow’ for summer colour and replaced the old hose reel and fittings.

All of our usual fundraising events in 2020 and many in 2021 were cancelled, including 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. This  raised £268 which was donated to the Blandford Food Bank to support the vital work they are doing in our community.

Blandford Christmas Tree

At Christmas, the Victorian Garden Group decorated a tree for the Blandford Parish Church Christmas Tree Trail. All the material was grown, collected and dried by the Group, and tree could be seen through the railings when the Garden was closed.

‘Our tree celebrates the comfort we’ve gained from working together in this difficult year, our joy in growing plants and sharing the beauty of their colours and forms – culminating in our bounteous display.’

Blandford Museum Victorian Garden had run Potato Days at Pimperne Village Hall in conjunction with Pennard Plants for the last ten years. Because of the uncertainties posed by the Covid19 pandemic, and possible shortages due to Brexit, Pennard Plants have decided not to hold any more potato days.