Within the walled gardens we have just extended our existing living willow arch.
We commissioned local artists Mark and Rebecca Ford to undertake this part of the project leading to the new stumpery.
Mark and Rebecca are known for their unusual willow features that they create for the Arundel Festival.
Last summer many motorists would have seen their Aardvarks grazing on the A27 roundabout here at Arundel!
The living willow arch is created using salix viminalis, salix alba vitellina, bowles hybrid and salix purpurea producing a contrast of yellow, green, red and purple willows.
The arch has just been extended by planting and weaving more salix into a quirky and yet stunning arch which will complement the dramatic stumpery garden beyond.
The fact that it is a living arch makes it that much more appealing to the eye. During the winter months, when the leaves die back, it takes on the form of a living sculpture.
The art of weaving salix (willow) stems has been done since prehistoric times when woven hurdles were used for fencing.
The willow was also used in buildings by weaving a structure and then coating it with layers of mud, clay and other natural materials such as wattle and daub.
This form of building is still in use throughout the world today.
Some of the Norfolk Estate’s fantastic old tree stumps that foresters have found are being strategically placed in the stumpery.
Once we have completed this we will infill the gaps and hollows with our leaf mold “black gold” and then planted up with a collection of Ferns, Hostas, Snakes Head Fritillaries and Hellebores giving this area a natural evergreen woodland feel with touches of colour.
I find Hellebores are such a valuable plant at this time of year with Helleborus orientalis being an evergreen perennial with variable coloured flowers whilst Helleborus lenten rose flowers from midwinter to spring and has lengthy divided green leaves that last all year round and look good in woodland gardens as well as herbaceous borders.
It is interesting to note that the greatest concentrations of Helleborus are found in the Balkans, although some species like Helleborus thibetanus can be found as far away as western China.
The flowers have five sepals (petals) the sepals do not fall as petals would, but remain on the plant, sometimes for many months. Here at the castle they surprised us as they have flowered at rather odd times of the year due to the wet and dull weather we’ve had.
A few tips from the castle garden team:
Select your hellebores whilst in flower or buy from a specialist nursery to ensure you get ones you really like.
February is the perfect month to plant new trees, make sure you choose the right tree for your site, its expected dimensions, whether it has deep extending roots – avoid planting too close to buildings etc.
Continue to top dress you beds with well rotted manure.
Bring forward your growing times by placing plastic sheeting or cloches over your soil to warm it up.
Arundel Castle opens its doors again on Good Friday, 29th March until 3rd November 2013, for full details of opening times, events, tours and entry fees visit www.arundelcastle.org.
Above, a living arch seat with, top, the new stumpery ar Arundel Castle gardens which open to the public again on March 29
Martin Duncan - Head Gardener Arundel Castle