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31 JAN

Spring in January?

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January certainly flew by here in the gardens. The weather has been very mild so far this winter, and it’s certainly creating some confusion. I am already seeing some trees budding up, with one particular hawthorn already having some leaves out. Hopefully the recent light frost will slow things down without doing too much damage.

The good news is that the bulbs are all waking up too and we already have some wonderful displays of snowdrops, crocus and of course our famous early daffodil avenue. It’s planted up with over 30,000 Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation', a classic yellow trumpet-type daffodil and one of the earliest blooming. It can tolerate cold, snowy weather and it has a long blooming period.

Our biggest focus is now preparing for what we hope will be a busy tourist season. This is the time that we get chance to bring in larger machinery and complete construction and maintenance jobs that would be impossible to do during the rest of the year. Recent visitors will have seen a lot of action around the grounds as our tree surgeons and forestry men work on removing some dangerous and diseased trees. We have also been renovating paths, edging beds and mulching as well as tree planting and transplanting. If you have a tree or shrub that’s in the wrong place, then now is the time to move it. Dig around it carefully and take as much root as you can then stake it in its new position until its roots take hold. The important thing is to remember to keep it watered over the dry summer months.

There are a lot of other jobs to do over the next few weeks in preparation for spring. We have already put in our indoor early potatoes and are about to start sowing seeds including tomatoes, peppers, indoor salad crops, leeks, sweet pea and assorted bedding plants for this year’s displays. Put in shallots and garlic now if you didn’t do it in the autumn. We have just pruned our grape vines and also applied a winter wash made from sulphur, lamp oil and soap. This helps with pests and diseases. Winter pruning of fruit trees should be finished as soon as possible. Do not prune stone fruit such as plums or peaches in the winter. Leave this for spring and summer. Roses should also be pruned back soon before they come into growth.

It’s never too early to mow the lawn if weather permits. The mild winter has meant that grass has continued growing, and we had to mow all of our lawn areas over the last week. Make sure to watch out for emerging spring bulbs though. Herbaceous plants can be moved or divided as the soil dries out and bare root plants can still be planted for the next few weeks.

There’s lots to see in the grounds and gardens at the moment, particularly worthy of mention are the winter borders, camellia beds, fern garden and the lake walk. Hopefully I will see some of you visiting in the coming month. Adam