Spring into action!

Pollination of the peaches at Arundel Castle.
Pollination of the peaches at Arundel Castle.

It’s a wonderful sight seeing the swathes of crocus bulbs flowering outside the castle gates; these were planted by the Arundel Rotary Club as part of the world-wide campaign to eradicate Polio, which has been a huge success in India.

The drifts of early flowering Narcissi (daffodils), especially February Gold are looking stunning throughout the castle landscape, but very surprisingly we have a few tulips already in flower!

Our potting shed is hotting up with Chillies being pricked out and potted on, whilst flower borders and vegetable beds continue to be mulched ready for our predicted dry summer, this will help retain the moisture and add essential organic nutrients to the soil. Seed sowing inside has started in earnest, and hundreds of cuttings taken last year are now being potted on ready for planting out in the gardens later on.

The daffodil is the emblem of Wales and on the 1st March, St David’s Day, you will find most of the Welsh wearing a daffodil. Did you know that HRH Prince of Wales is paid one daffodil a year as rental for the unattended lands of Scilly!

A tip when picking flowers in spring for an arrangement: make sure you pick fresh daffodils and keep them separate in water for a day or so before adding them to any display, this avoids other flowers from wilting as the stems can be quite toxic. Naturally if you just want a vase of daffodils you can arrange them straight away, there are so many varieties of narcissi these days one is spoilt for choice.

One of the nicest tasks for the castle gardeners at the moment is for them to spend time helping to pollinate the fan-trained peaches in our wonderful Victorian Vinery/Glasshouse. One of our fan-trained peaches is the Prunus persica ‘Flat China’, which is round and flat with a wonderful sweet taste, the variety was first shown to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 1819. These peaches are very popular throughout the world, although not seen that often in Britain.

In Victorian times pollination would have been done by using a soft rabbit’s tail on a stick to gently move pollen from flower to flower like a visiting bumble bee. Today we are able to use live bumble bees, brought in especially to work together with the peach blossom and to ensure pollination occurs at the ideal time of day, when atmospheric conditions release the most pollen. We also use Victorian methods of pollination; however we use a soft cosmetic brush (currently on loan from someone’s make-up bag!) rather than a rabbit’s tail!

Tips from the castle garden team:

In the vegetable garden continue to prepare the ground for sowing and planting.

Lift and divide summer flowering perennials.

Plant Jerusalem artichokes, early potatoes and garlic.

Prune roses.

Prepare and plant new borders.

Prepare frames for runner beans and sweet peas etc.

Happy Gardening!

We open the Castle gates on Saturday, March 31 for the season and for full ticket, booking and tour details visit the castle website at www.arundelcastle.org or the Arundel Festival website www.arundelfestival.co.uk. TheArundel Festival starts on the August 19 until Bank Holiday Monday, 29th. Here at Arundel Castle we are hosting a great Concert and Opera in the Barons Hall (22nd& 23rdAugust) and within the Collector Earl’s Garden the GB Theatre Company will be performing Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night (25th& 26th ).

Martin Duncan - Arundel Castle Head Gardener