‘Sustainability’ is probably not a word that you will hear spoken very often in the potting shed. But recycling, re-using and making the most of the garden’s resources are second-nature to the Glyndebourne gardeners. February is the time when we coppice hazel for use in the garden later in the year.
Coppicing is a traditional method of cropping wood that makes use of some trees’ ability to quickly re-grow from a stump. The branches can be used for plant supports and fence poles. At Glyndebourne the largest stems are used for bean poles and to construct frames that sweet peas will grow up. The smaller branches help support herbaceous perennials and the smallest, twiggy stems are pushed in amongst the peas to keep them off the wet soil.
At Glyndebourne groups of hazel are grown at the edge of the orchard and a plant is cut down to the ground every three to four years, rotating which plant is coppiced so that there is always a display of the hazels’ catkins in the spring (which are also useful in flower arrangements) and, of course, a crop of nuts in the autumn.
Rather than using bamboo canes (which are often shipped from half-way across the world), consider using coppiced hazel for your plant supports. A garden as large as Glyndebourne needs several plants but in a typical domestic garden a single plant should provide all you need. We cut down an entire plant at a time but cutting down a third of the stems each year is just as effective.