Looking back over the gardening year

Cricklepit Mill Garden Volunteer, Catherine Twamley, looks back on another successful year in our award-winning Exeter garden.
Cricklepit Mill outdoors

Welcome to the end of year blog by the Devon Wildlife Trust's volunteer Cricklepit Garden Group who look after the RHS award winning garden at the Trust's headquarters at Cricklepit Mill in Exeter.

I think most of us will agree that the weather conditions in Devon this year have certainly been problematic for gardeners and wildlife alike.  After surviving the 'Beast from the East' and then facing one of the hottest summers on record, and relatively dry for Devon, our volunteers noticed a worrying lack of bees early on in the year.  Thankfully once summer arrived with gusto their numbers soon picked up. 

Although some of us may relish the hot dry conditions they aren't ideal for many species and plants.  The lack of rain has played havoc with the vegetables (or lack of them) in our Potager Garden and resulted in a rather disappointing annual wildflower bed.  We also spent many gardening sessions topping up our wildlife pond and bog garden with water that we had left to stand in our water butts for a week to allow any chemicals to disperse, but on a positive note we have only had to mow the grass twice!

Despite these challenges the Cricklepit Garden Group volunteers have actually made good progress in the garden this year.  We have expanded the winter interest border with Sweetbox (Sarcococca Confusa) Dark Purple Bugle (Ajuga reptans Atropurputea) and Ivy Leaved Cyclamen (Cyclamen Hederifolium).  It is really starting to fill out now and we plan to add some native daffodils next autumn as a final touch.  We have also made some alterations to the orchard by removing the wildflower meadow at the front and planting Betony (Stachys Officinals), Oxlip (Primula Elatior) and Meadow Rue (Thalictrun) under the fruit trees.  Next year we hope to add a second wire to the framework to train the upper fruit tree branches along to continue to create an espalier.

Drum roll please......the first stage of our three year woodland glade project has finally got underway with clearance work taking place and planting of Lauristinus (Viburnum Tinus) Sweet Woodruff (Calium Odoratum) and Wood Forget me Not seeds (Myosotis Sylvatica).  The beds have been edged with logs from an Ash tree that we had to cut back and we also plan to lay a permeable modular grid system made from recycled plastic along the pathway to make it more accessible.

Cricklepit Garden Group awarded prize

Our main highlight of 2018 has to be our 'outstanding'  award from the RHS Britain in Bloom 'It's your neighbourhood' category for the 3rd year running.  Additionally our resident Mallard ducks Daphne and Donald had 7 ducklings and at the last sighting 3 had survived so we are hopeful they are now making their own way on the River Exe as troublesome juveniles.

Well that's about it for this year except to wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year.  When we return from our winter break we are planning to complete work on the dragonfly island and continue adding to the winter interest border and woodland glade as the plants become available.  We are also looking to relocate the plants from the bed next to the ramp around the garden and are mulling over the idea of restocking this with wild fruits, and fingers crossed the weather will be more favourable for our Potager and wildflower beds.


Visiting Cricklepit Mill garden

The Cricklepit Mill garden is close to Exeter's historic quayside (EX2 4AB). Its free to enter and is open year round Mon to Fri (except Bank Holidays), 9am to 5pm. 

In summer look out for special events in the garden on our What's On guide.

Get tips and ideas about wildlife gardening.