Head Gardener, Martin Gee
2014 didn’t start very well with gales and continued rain that created a lot of work clearing up storm damage from the trees. One thing that lifted our spirits though was the completion of the restoration of the Weston Conservatory. The present building was built in the 1935 on the foundations of the old Victorian Conservatory which was built in 1840 by Jones and Clark but this was taken down and replaced with the current building designed by Foster and Pearsons. It was built in Iroko wood, from the west coast of Africa, a very durable wood which doesn’t need extensive varnishing or treating – so ideal for this kind of building.
It was has been a long held wish by the Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation to restore the building was the glazing was in poor condition and prone to leaks. All the glass panels were removed and the wood treated and jet washed – where we needed to replace glass panels we did and the rest were cleaned up and re-fitted back into their frames. Although it was wet and windy throughout the project we were blessed with mild conditions. Not having a roof though did throw up some challenges! We covered the permanent plants with protective fleecing and they made it through the project. One particular plant that I was concerned about was the Jasmine Polyanthum. This plant is the parent of a batch of cuttings that were introduced to America by David Smith, who was the son of Weston’s Head Gardener at the time – Roland Smith. Roland was at Weston from 1922 to 1957 and David was a director of White Flower Farm from 1954 to 1990. He remembers the jasmine that filled the conservatory from when he used to visit his parents and asked for a cutting to take to America. Taking plants to America is not allowed so he smuggled the cuttings in by wrapping them in dirty nappies!