Behind Castle Walls with Adam Whitbourn

As usual, January has flown by in a blur! Christmas is a vague memory and all of the focus is on preparing for the coming tourist season. This is the time that we get chance to bring in machinery and complete construction and maintenance jobs that would be impossible to do during the rest of the year. Recent visitors will have seen just how much is going on at the moment. To name a few projects, we are building a new cafe and toilet block at the main entrance, replacing two of the bridges and continuing renovations on the castle itself. We are also very busy with more garden specific projects, including the new winter beds, our Vietnamese walk, revamping our herbaceous borders, additions to the Pinetum and all of the ongoing clean up from the winter storms. I’m hoping that by the middle of March we will have started to get the place looking a bit more presentable. There’s some good early colour around the grounds, with drifts of snowdrops and cyclamen popping up, but our daffodil avenue is currently stealing the show. 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. We even had a few up in December. There are a lot of 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, but watch out for emerging spring bulbs. 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. This is one of our upcoming big jobs, as we plan to renovate the herbaceous borders. 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. Although it’s not the best weather, there is still plenty to see in the grounds and gardens. I love walking around the lake at this time of year and watching all the birdlife. I’m looking forward to the spring, and to seeing life renew itself all around the gardens. Adam