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Weeds don't do social distancing!

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The end of June has heralded a return to what I suppose is to be the new normal. We have now reopened the castle to visitors and are observing the social distancing and hygiene rules to make everything as safe as possible. Managing the gardens is always a challenge but it has been particularly difficult this year. Unfortunately, the weeds do not understand the concept of social distancing, and they are happily mingling throughout the beds and borders. We are slowly getting back on top of things, but we have had to adopt a somewhat wilder look in certain areas.

We take a very Robinsonian approach to our management of the gardens and let nature mingle where possible, but it does require a certain level of control to maintain that semi-wild charm that looks so lovely. For example, leaving bluebells to go to seed and wild garlic to die back gives time for other less precious species to grow, and this then requires clearing out. It keeps us pretty busy.

The good news is that features like the Tropical Border, Jungle, Poison Garden, and the Herbaceous Border are all looking great. The rose pergola that frames the Herbaceous Border is in full bloom and is a tunnel of scent. It is worth coming just to experience it!

Our newest project is the Fern Garden balcony boardwalk, and we hope to have it completed and open by the end of July. It was originally meant to be completed in the spring but was delayed due to the lockdown. I will be happy to see it finally finished as it will be a great addition to the area.

In the glasshouses our peaches have ripened, and the nectarines, apricots and grapes are all coming along nicely. Melons are a new addition this year, and they are doing well too. We also have a promising apple crop. as well as a good range of summer berries. There will be plenty of ice cream and apple juice for the cafe next year!

Jobs for July will include pinching out tomatoes and cucumbers side shoots, thinning growth on our grape vines and also thinning the fruit to improve the overall crop and tying in the new growth on the peach and nectarines to form next year’s branch structure. Ongoing watering and feeding is very important. We feed every second week with phostrogen for the ornamentals and seaweed for the vegetables. In this dry weather you should make sure the plant has been watered prior to feeding it so that it does not take up too much too quick.

I must talk about the wildlife in the gardens this month. I suppose the lack of visitors has made the animals that little bit bolder and more confident, and we are seeing an increase not only in the sightings of our regular species but also new arrivals in the gardens. Two of our newest residents are stoats and woodpeckers. I have mentioned before that we hold the Wildlife Estate title from the European Landowners Organization (ELO) and we have adopted a management regime that also considers biodiversity and creates habitats and opportunities for our native wildlife throughout the estate, in the gardens, forestry and farm. It is fantastic to see so many rare species so close to the city.

I hope to see you in the gardens. Adam