The joys of spring!

Helleborus oriental.

Helleborus oriental.

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With the arrival of February there is nothing better than to get out and about on a crisp winter’s day and enjoy all that spring has to offer. The day lengths are getting longer and buds are beginning to swell ready to burst open next month, when the temperatures rise.

In the castle gardens ‘Chaenomeles speciosa’ (flowering Quince) has been flowering since the beginning of January; this vigorous spiny stemmed deciduous shrub bears clusters of flowers through to the summer.

In autumn aromatic yellow fruits appear, which can be cooked in jellies or preserves. But my favourite plant in the garden at the moment is the ‘Helleborus Orientalis’, an upright evergreen perennial that flowers from mid-winter to spring bearing lovely white to creamy flowers that flush pink or maroon with age, the divided deep green leaves last all year. Hellebores prefer dappled light and grow well in any good garden soil. I would recommend planting them with Snowdrops, Ferns and winter Aconites to give a lovely display at this time of the year.

The castle garden team are very busy completing the winter projects before spring arrives; Stuart Whitson and Nathan Treadwell are re-shaping borders, top dressing and digging holes ready for the arrival of our new trees and shrubs in a few weeks’ time. Issy McKinley and Kate Pheasant have been busy in the walled gardens pruning and preparing beds for mulching and planting.

Our groundsman, Chris Barrett and Stuart Scutt, continue to maintain our immaculate grounds removing ivy from trees and castle walls and in very wet weather the Victorian Glasshouses are being scrubbed clean. Stuart Scutt will then give them a new coat of paint. In addition our great, but small team of volunteers have been potting up ‘Pelargoniums’ and ‘Fuchsias’ as well as helping throughout the walled gardens.

Our new Stumpery is taking shape thanks to the Estate Forestry team who are finding us some fantastic old architectural stumps, in amongst the stumps we will be planting ‘ferns’, ‘Helleborus’, ‘Snowdrops’ and ‘Snake’s head Fritillaries’.

Tips from the castle garden team:

Give your garden birds some food and water, especially at this time of year.

This is a good time to plant your bare rooted trees.

Prune back hardy evergreen trees and shrubs.

Plant new Snowdrops in the green or lift and divide large clumps and replant.

If you haven’t done so, order your seeds and seed potatoes.

Arundel Castle & Gardens - open from Saturday 31st March to Sunday 4th November 2012, Tuesdays to Sundays inclusive, Bank Holiday Mondays and August Mondays.

For further details look at our website: www.arundelcastle.org.

Martin Duncan - Arundel Castle Head Gardener