Behind Castle walls with Adam

The gardens are looking truly fabulous right now. Every turn reveals another beautiful vista, be it drifts of tulips by the entrance, swathes of blue Camassia in the meadows below the castle, or a multitude of Azaleas bursting into flower in the Belgian Beds. There is colour everywhere and I’ve been finding it difficult to pick a route for my guided tour groups as there is so much to see. I’m hoping we are finally rid of the frosty mornings, and we have moved out most of the tender plants that reside in the Tropical Borders, Jungle and Fern Garden to their summer homes. I’m holding back on the last few specimens just in case, but I expect to have them all out within the next week or so. It’s always nice to finally finish so that they can get settled in. I will, however, be keeping a sharp eye on the weather forecast and we will protect them with horticultural fleece if they are at risk. The azalea beds that run from the Mansion to the Castle are coming into flower now and will be a sea of colour for the next few weeks. We call this area the Belgian Beds as the original stock plants came from Belgium. We extended the original beds and added 5 new beds over the last few years, so they really are an impressive sight. There have been a lot of ‘housekeeping’ jobs to do this month, including mulching beds, edging lawns, pruning and tidying shrubs and when possible a little bit of weed killing on the hard surfaces. I find if you get on top of things early, it makes it a lot easier later. 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, and it’s still not too late for lifting and dividing plants that you want to spread out or share with friends, but do it soon. The wildlife on the estate continues to go from strength to strength. We have recently confirmed the presence of a breeding pair of woodpeckers in the arboretums, as well as plenty of mischievous red squirrels, bats, otters, owls, kingfishers and only this morning I spotted the herons nesting in the trees along the riverside. I am delighted to see so much of our native fauna around. It really underlines the importance of having a management plan that prioritises the biodiversity. One other area that deserves a special mention is our Himalayan Valley. It is also looking stunning right now, as many rhododendrons are still in flower, along with masses of bluebells and wild garlic which run right through our woodland areas and along the riverside walk. It really is a great time to explore the grounds and gardens. I hope to see you soon. Adam