What an amazing contrast in weather we have had so far, with the temperature being only 6 degrees two weeks ago.
Then we had copious amounts of rain which helped enormously in ensuring a fantastic early start to the growing season, to the amazingly high weekend temperatures reaching a record 28 degrees, it‘s hardly surprising that our visitors were tricked into feeling that they were visiting the Mediterranean and not the south coast of England!
We have an abundance of colour throughout the gardens as everything seems to be flowering early. The Trachycarpus fortunei - Chusan palms - are looking stunning, especially as they are flowering.
Ours must be mainly female plants as they have yellow flowers, the male plants will produce greener flowers. They are native to central China, Hubei southwards, these are one of the hardiest palms and can withstand temperatures as low as minus 12 degrees and do well in this part of Britain.
The most striking plants in flower at the moment are the Eremurus - Foxtail lilies or desert candles - which are creating a majestic display standing proud within the tropical borders of the Collector Earl’s Garden, these are native to western and central Asia and can grow up to 10 feet tall!
You can find them in many colours, ours have lovely white flowers, but in other borders we have Ruiter hybrids & Cleopatra which range from yellow to orange and pink. We have now planted out all our tropical plants such as our Canna lilies, some are already about to flower! And we’ve even uncovered our bananas – Musa Basjoo, which are responding well to the heat.
The herbaceous borders are full of colour with yet more stunning Alliums, Lupins, Digitalis - Foxgloves and Aquilegia giving soft tones to the this part of the walled gardens.
Lupins are mostly associated with being a good herbaceous plant for an English garden, but they are also a source of food. The yellow legume seeds of lupins, commonly called lupin beans, were popular with the Romans, who spread the plant’s cultivation throughout the Roman Empire.
Mike, who works for the castle, kindly brought some back from Rome for me to taste which really were very good. The name ‘Lupin’ derives from the Latin word lupinus, meaning wolf, and was given this name as it has a tendency to ravage the land on which it grows, here at the castle we keep a close eye on ours and will deadhead regularly to keep them flowering for as long as possible, but never allow them to take over.
The castle garden team is going full steam ahead planting out all our summer bedding. The main annual plants we use are Cosmos – saucer shaped flowers which if deadheaded will flower through to autumn, some of the varieties to look out for are: Atrosanguineus, chocolate scented, Seashells and Sensation, Cleome – spider flower - is attractive and free flowering through the summer months, giving a garden an exotic feel, Salvias and Scaevola. In the organic kitchen garden the first crop of Feltham Peas and Broad Beans are doing well whilst the potato crop is being earthed up.
Tips from the castle garden team:
Plant out tender vegetables such as tomatoes and runner beans
Watch out for lily beetles, I’m finding around 10 a day!
Good time to sow perennial seeds.
Arundel Castle & Gardens are Open Tuesday to Sundays inclusive and August Mondays and Bank Holiday Mondays. For full ticket details, events and tours visit the castle website at www.arundelcastle.org or telephone Information & Bookings Administrator on 01903 882173 extension 230.
Martin Duncan - Head Gardener Arundel Castle