Of silver birch and scarecrows

It's been a mixed week in the garden, starting with planting in the mud and rain and ending with scarecrows sunning themselves by the lake

As it's half term, we have had our annual scarecrow competition - twelve families entered and made their scarecrows, which are now on display round the lakeside.

Scarecrows at RHS Garden Harlow CarrThey are displayed for a week and everyone gets a chance to vote for their favourite one.

Much innovation goes into this and we are always delighted by these characters, as indeed they do look as though they might spring into life at any moment – well who knows what they get up to after we’ve all gone home.

Work is carrying on apace in the woodland, where the second shelter is coming along nicely; we have had a bespoke pebble mosaic floor made by Olicana who specialise in mosaics. The end result was breathtaking and the magnolia design unique.

Detail of the magnolia mosaic in the woodland shelterThe shelter is going to be named ‘The Magnolia Shelter’ and there are many more magnolias to be planted round and about once the structure is completed. The next stage is to put a seat round the inside and then landscape the surrounding area.

The week started with a frenzied round of tree planting in another part of the woodland. Josh, our apprentice, even came in on his day off to help - now there’s dedication - especially as it was raining. Anyway we have planted a lovely selection of light- and dark-stemmed birches, with intriguing names such as Betula 'Black Star', 'Polar Bear', 'Moonbeam', 'Darkness' and 'Silver Shadow'.

Planting out birches at RHS Garden Harlow CarrThey have been planted in a swathe in the arboretum, in a glade that was cleared last year. Planting them in this way will show off the beautiful striations on their bark; which are only enhanced when they grow and mature.

Birch is such a lovely tree, casting a dappled shade and displaying attractive catkins which enhance woodland planting. After the tree planting I ordered 30,000 snowdrops and 30,000 English bluebells – again these will be added to pockets of cleared woodland. They will be planted 'in the green', which gives them a much better chance of getting their roots down before the hungry squirrels move in, in late autumn for snack time. Trowels and knee pads at the ready everyone!

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.