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28 FEB

Focus on February

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This time last year I was talking about an early spring. There were already magnolias, rhododendrons and cherry trees in flower throughout the gardens, which was wonderful to see, but left me somewhat unsettled. Things are a little slower this year, and I’m just starting to see the first flowers emerging, which I am much more comfortable with. The last few nights have been particularly cold, and if we were any further ahead there would be a lot of damage to flowers and buds.

It’s been a very damp February and a challenge to complete the larger winter projects. There has been so much construction and infrastructure work over the winter that it will be a little strange to see the place looking tidy and clean once again. I hope we will be looking quite respectable for St. Patricks day.

The Carnivorous Courtyard, a garden of carnivorous plants that will be situated alongside our Poison Garden has been under construction for the past 12 months. We are finally nearing completion and will be starting to plant the beds up over the coming weeks. We are also revamping the Poison Garden, with the addition of some nice crisp limestone edging and a major replanting project once the edging is installed. I’m excited to see it all finished.

We are also in the process of building a new disabled access path through our Jungle area. It will significantly shorten the route that wheelchair users have to take to reach the base of the castle. We will be adding quite a few new specimen plants to enhance the jungle feel of the area, so keep an eye out for this when you next visit.

With all the projects and building and tidying work going on it’s easy to forget that the usual seasonal gardens work is also required. We are moving shrubs, mulching beds and paths, pruning roses, undertaking assorted tree work and planting up new saplings in our woodlands using native home-grown oaks. In the kitchen garden we are planting potatoes as the soil dries out. Sow seeds of bedding plants, tomatoes and peppers and plant out onions, garlic and shallots if not already done. Pollinate peach, nectarine and apricot trees with a small paint brush. Ours are just coming into flower now. Let’s hope they survive.  Pruning of apples and pears should be finished now. We are also in the process of planting out the last of our bare root fruit trees and ornamentals. We are starting off our begonia tubers in the poly tunnel. They provide a mass of summer colour to our tubs and baskets around the entrance and are remarked on every year. This year we will have even more tubs and baskets to plant up and keep watered and fed, but I’m sure it will be worth the effort.

I’m hoping the next few weeks will bring some warm and settled weather, but I won’t be surprised if this winter still has a sting in its tail! Come and enjoy the wonderful spring colours in the gardens and let’s hope for a calm and settled spring.

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