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29 APR

A Hectic April

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April has seen an absolute riot of colour in the gardens and the show is only just beginning! The colours throughout the borders are exceptional, with magnolias, camellias, and early rhododendrons all adding to the fabulous display. I hope you have managed to get in to see them, or plan to soon. As the first flowers now begin to fade, they are being replaced by azaleas and rhododendrons, as well as large drifts of bluebells and wild garlic through the woods. There is literally something new around every corner!

The wildlife on the estate continues to go from strength to strength. Kingfishers are now regular visitors along our riverside walk and have also recently been spotted on the lake. Our woodpecker seems to have found himself a mate, and we hope to see more of them in the arboretums soon. I’m still waiting to hear the cuckoo this year though and remain hopeful. I am delighted to see so much of our native fauna around. It really underlines the importance of having a management plan that prioritises the biodiversity.

I mentioned this time last year that we were a little late with moving out all our tender plants, and it’s the same again this year. I always wait for the overnight temperatures to come up before risking putting them out. Hopefully, there will be very few late frosts this year. It is always nice to see them back as they form an integral part of the tropical borders and fern garden.

We had an exciting first flowering in our Vietnamese woodland this month. A rare Rhododendron species flowered for the first time, and we were able to confirm its identity. It is a beautiful shade of yellow and its full name is Rhododendron valentinianum var. valentinianum. There are many new species being planted out into the gardens and seeds collected in 2018 and 2019 have been germinated and grown on in the glasshouses and are now big enough to plant out. It will be exciting to see how they do in their new home. This is an ex-situ conservation project, and we hope to establish many rare and endangered species over the coming years.

We are really into the hectic season now and there is certainly no shortage of work! Jobs for the next few weeks: Plant indoor tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers if you haven’t already, start to tie in and pinch out growth on the grape vine, thin indoor peaches to ensure a good quality crop, sow herbs in six packs and then plant out when they reach a manageable size, this also works well for lettuce. Watch out for slug damage and check for greenfly both indoors and out. A good tip for dealing with greenfly is mix some washing up liquid and water in a jug to make a lot of foam, then apply this foam directly to the infested areas to completely cover the aphids. It is very effective! Now is the time to start thinking about staking herbaceous plants before they become too established. Dahlias can be planted out in the beds now and we will shortly be planting out our bedding plants. There is still a risk of frost though so be on standby with horticultural fleece.

Getting outdoors is vital for both physical and mental wellbeing. We love to see so many of you enjoying the grounds and gardens. Over the coming weeks look out for our rhododendrons and azaleas. They will be stealing the show! I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam