April has been a real stop start month in the gardens, and the poor plants have been totally confused by our crazy weather. I think things are finally starting to right themselves now though. A little sunshine helps everything! I’m expecting to see a lot of movement in the coming weeks as plants try to catch up, but so will the weeds! The rhododendrons and azaleas throughout the gardens are coming into flower and there are vivid splashes of colour around every bend. The azalea beds that run from the Mansion to the Castle will be a sea of colour for the next few weeks. They are definitely worth a visit! We call this area the Belgian Beds as the original stock plants came from Belgium. We finally moved out all of our tender tropical plants last week, and it’s very satisfying to see the borders filling back up. Our Jungle area is going into its second year and I hope to see good growth on some of the schefflera and more unusual specimens that we’ve put in. There are plans to further extend this garden down towards the river to include a South African terrace. Our Vietnamese woodland is also taking shape and visitors will see a new arrival in the area soon. We are constructing a Cardamom farmers hut to highlight the impact that this is having in the native Vietnamese forests. This whole area is part of an ex-situ conservation project that we are running in partnership with an institute in Vietnam. A lot of the wild collected plants that we are introducing here are endangered in their native habitat. As the ground dries out we have a lot of clean up to do from recent renovation works around the grounds and gardens. We have 3 areas around the castle to lay new turf and many muddy verges to tidy and reseed. The long wet winter and passing construction vehicles really took its toll on the grass and it will take a while to get things back up to standard. Jobs for the next few weeks: Plant indoor tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers if you haven’t already, start to tie in and pinch out growth on the grape vine, thin indoor peaches to ensure a good quality crop, sow herbs in six packs and then plant out when they reach a manageable size, this also works well for lettuce. Watch out for slug damage and check for greenfly both indoors and out. A good tip for dealing with greenfly is mix some washing up liquid and water in a jug to make a lot of foam, then apply this foam directly to the infested areas to completely cover the aphids. It is very effective! Now is the time to start thinking about staking herbaceous plants before they become too established. Dahlias can be planted out in the beds now and we will shortly be planting out our bedding plants. There is still a risk of frost though so be on standby with horticultural fleece.
I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam