Behind Castle walls with Adam Whitbourne

October is one of my favourite months as it generally brings dramatic changes throughout the grounds and gardens. We’ve had our first few frosty mornings and the arboretums have transformed into their autumn coats which come in so many wonderful colours and shades. There are the buttery yellows and vivid reds, to the more subtle tones of copper and bronze and purple shades which combine to form a rich tapestry. That’s just the start of it though. It’s the sign of the coming winter, and many other changes are taking place. Plants are entering their dormant periods and we are busy cutting back, mulching, digging out, dividing and protecting where necessary. If you look after your plants now they will reward you next year.

This time of year also signals the end of our busy tourist season. Summer usually passes in a blur, and generally involves a great deal of maintenance work. This year was particularly challenging with the drought and extreme weather conditions in general. I feel like I can breathe again now and it’s time to get our teeth into some new projects. We are currently in the middle of several projects which include a new cobble edge to our herbaceous border, further developments of our new winter beds, a stone bank below the jungle garden which will be planted up in the spring and a complete renovation of our bog garden.

Our fruit and vegetable areas are currently undergoing their autumn tidy. We are organising our beds for next year and planning where to plant what. We have a crop rotation system in place, which helps prevent pests and disease and keeps the nutrients in the soil more balanced. We are also opening up several new vegetable beds with a view to further developments that lean towards restoring some of the original features of the walled garden area. We will shortly be planting out garlic and shallots and sowing sweet pea indoors for next year’s crops. We are currently keeping glasshouse vents open overnight to encourage leaf fall on our indoor fruit such as peaches and grapes. The grape vine needs to be fully dormant before we start to prune it.

Other jobs we will be doing over the next month include lifting and dividing herbaceous perennials, wind lopping roses, spreading compost and digging over vegetable beds, leaf collection to form next year’s leaf mold, lifting dahlias, begonias to overwinter inside, fleecing tree ferns and tender plants to protect from frost, and the planting of new bare root hedging and trees.

It’s a very busy time of the year for us here in the gardens and usually, in my experience, the time when you achieve the most. Come and see us in November! Adam

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