Inside the Garden March

We are definitely feeling a change in the air as we leap into March. The snowdrops went over surprisingly quickly this year, after a mild, wet winter, so we are now looking for pockets of colour from the other spring bulbs around the grounds.

Rhododendron in flower

The Gardens Team have performed a monumental feat by planting 200 000 Spring bulbs in a day, using a combination of hand planting and deploying a digger to scrape back turf and replace it over the bulbs. It is late to be planting Spring bulbs for this year, but they will now put up leaves, and settle themselves at their preferred depth in the ground in the Coronation Arboretum ready for a sensational display next year. We can’t wait to see them. Keep an eye out for a host of daffodils, fritillaries, crocus, snowdrop, camassia and anemone.

We are just starting to mow our lawns, as the weather gets drier and warmer. The ground is still very soft, so we have started by using our lightest electric mower to cut the tips of the grass on the very highest setting. This stimulates side shoots, giving us a lusher sward of grass. Where the ground is saturated, we are mowing the edges, to give a neat edge, and hope the moisture evaporates soon.

We now set aside four areas for No Mow May, in front of the Spa, in the Nuttery, at the end of the Follifoot Wing and in the Coronation Arboretum, where we have started to see wildflowers appearing since we started this project in 2022. Expect to see Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis) and Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) peeping up through the grass.

Some of our magnificent rhododendrons are in flower already, again a sign that they are stressed by the milder wetter winter. We are feeding them with used coffee grounds from the hotel, diverting it from landfill, and woodchip from our winter clearing work to replenish their nutrient levels in the hope they will flower again later in the year.

The Kitchen Garden raised beds are mulched with our own compost, the earth is warming up and we are seeing signs of life everywhere as the perennial trees, shrubs and vegetables start to appear

Digger planting 200 000 bulbs

One of our 52 raised beds mulched with spent coffee grounds from the hotel

We have put terracotta cloches over our rhubarb crowns. This suppresses light, ‘forcing’ the rhubarb to grow sweeter with stunning pink coloured stems. This exhausts the plants over time, so we are careful to rotate the forcing pots over a three year period to give the crowns a chance to recover. We keep picking the unforced stems, producing up to 20kg of rhubarb a week in the height of the season.

Emma is now starting the long task of sowing seeds and pricking out seedlings for the glasshouse. Chillies, leeks, onions and brassicas are being started on our heated propagation bed, before being moved gradually to the heated glasshouse, the frost free glasshouse and the cold frames before being planted out in the garden. This helps them to harden off so they can tolerate life outdoors, and I always remember the advice of a wise gardener at this point, who told me that “young plants always prefer a warm bottom and a cool head”!

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