Behind castle walls with Adam Whitbourne

December was busy here in the gardens. Most of the month was spent doing end of year clean up jobs, machinery servicing and general maintenance. This is the time of year that the vital housekeeping tasks are completed before we enter another new season. Several new projects are underway and we recently completed planting a new arboretum area. Also look out for the newly created entrance to our Jungle area which is due for completion in the spring. There will be a lot of large leaved structural plants going in, which should be quite impressive in the summer. Our Vietnamese woodland is shaping up nicely too, and we have many wild collected seed now starting to germinate in the glasshouses. These will provide some extremely interesting additions to the gardens over the next few years. The last few nights have seen a drop in temperature, but it’s been relatively mild recently. Our snowdrops on the front avenue are starting to emerge and a couple of early varieties are in flower in the winter border. It’s always one of the first real signs of spring for me. The daffodil avenue is already starting to emerge and the first few flowers are open. I expect it will be in full flower by mid February. Our glasshouses are due for a major clean in the next few weeks, not one of my favourite jobs! We will shortly be starting our bedding plants for summer; this is the start of sowing time for seeds in a heated propagator, but wait until February for most. We already have sweet pea growing on and will be trying a few different varieties this year. The seed of early vegetable varieties of lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and peas can be sown now. Start them in a propagator or a warm windowsill, and grow them on in a greenhouse or poly tunnel. Other jobs for January include pruning and tidying the grape vines, pruning fruit trees and bushes as well as ornamentals but not Cherry or stone fruits, leave these until early spring when they start to bud. Firming up young trees and plants that may have been loosened by the high winds and wet conditions is extremely important and planting of bare root hedging and trees is also ongoing. 2016 was a very busy year for us here in the gardens. We achieved a great deal and I am delighted at the way that the gardens continue to develop. We recently were accepted for membership of the Botanic Gardens Conservation International group which brings us up to another level in our accomplishments. We have a fantastic group of highly motivated and dedicated staff, and I look forward to working with them all in 2017. Wishing everyone a very happy new year from all of us in the gardens.