Inside the Garden February

Whilst we are all bundled up indoors at the start of the New Year, making resolutions to be healthier and feeling grateful to be out of the rain, it is easy to imagine that the gardens are also snuggled up and dormant. As gardeners, we are rarely busier!

Whilst woody plants and shrubs are in slower growth, this is a perfect time to prune. Pruning helps plants to retain a shape or framework, from hedges to ornamental fruit trees. It can encourage stronger bud formation and later flowering by focussing the plants' energy into fewer branches. We have performed annual pruning throughout the Kitchen Garden, the hedges around the Holiday Park and the magnificent Wisteria sinensis that grows against the south wall of Rudding House. The team use scaffolding to reach the highest parts of this climber, and prune to two buds, hoping to stimulate a magnificent show of drooping lilac flowers in Spring.

Delivery of new fruit trees

Espalier fruit wall

Winter is a good time to plant new trees. Providing the ground isn't too waterlogged or frozen, we have been replacing failed Himalayan birch (Betula utilis 'Jacquemontii') in the dramatic new birch stand into the woodlands opposite the Follifoot Wing, installing new hedges around the Lodges, and planting new Crab Apples (Malus sylvestris 'Golden Hornet') in the Kitchen Garden. Mulching on a warmer day really benefits these plants as they establish, as it suppresses competition from weeds, holds in heat and moisture, and can provide some low levels of nutrients. We use a range of mulches, from our own leaf mold and woodchip, to spent mushroom compost, locally source horse manure or used coffee grounds from the hotel. The Kitchen Garden smells fantastic on coffee mulch days!

Birch Stand

Witch hazel

The Kitchen Garden looks quite bare at the moment, but there is still plenty to see. We have some winter leaves still in production and have microgreens growing in the glasshouse and are mulching the beds in readiness for the seeds we are starting to sow. We have stored our harvested Jerusalem artichokes in a 'clamp' by burying them in trays into the raised bed where we grew them. This is a traditional method of preserving root crops until they are needed by the kitchens. To find out more about the importance of Kitchen Gardens, you can hear Matthew Wilson interviewing our Kitchen Gardener Emma Pugh, along with our Horto chef Callum Bowmer on BBC Radio 4 Gardener's Question Time, click here to listen. 

Emma Pugh, Callum Bowmer, Matthew Wilson

Gardener's Question Time

Finally, don't forget to search out some Winter magic in the gardens. Snowdrops are popping up around the Estate, giving a tiny flash of joy as you walk through the Follifoot Woodland. We have a planted a stand of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis spp.) here, which smell fantastic on frosty dry days, providing pollinators much needed nectar and a valued lift to anyone walking past

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