Behind Castle Walls with Adam Whitbourn

The year ended with more unsettled weather and to be honest I’m pleased to see the back of 2017. It was certainly a challenging year in the gardens, with considerable storm damage that we are still clearing up from. On a more positive note, the gardens have continued to grow and develop and we have welcomed some new staff members onto the team. We have a fantastic group of highly motivated and dedicated staff and volunteers, and I look forward to working with them all in 2018. There are a lot of construction projects going on throughout the grounds and gardens at the moment. This is typically the quiet time when these sorts of projects have to happen. It’s frustrating to see the mess, but I’m hoping the end results will make it all worthwhile. We have planted quite a few specimen trees to replace those lost in the storm, and also to add to our collection of rare varieties. Our arboretums contain specimens from all over the world and I am constantly trying to source special trees and shrubs to enhance the gardens. I take great pleasure in finding something new and interesting. We are very busy in our glasshouses at present. We are sowing the latest batch of Vietnamese seed along with other rare and special plant species. I always get excited watching for the first new seedlings to emerge. 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. We recently began planting up our new Winter Borders and I am looking forward to seeing how they develop. They will fill a gap in our seasonal calendar and add another area of interest on what was a relatively empty path through the arboretum. Spring bulbs are starting to emerge which will provide welcome splashes of colour. Look for the hellebores, aconites and snow drops that are already out around the gardens. The first few flowers are open on our daffodil avenue and I expect it will be in full flower by mid February.

I hope some of you will be in for walks over the next few weeks as I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. I’m hoping 2018 will be a great year for all. Adam