By Andrew Humphris, Head Gardener
“It has been a difficult winter in terms of weather, with periods of extreme rain followed by freezing conditions. We then had further very wet weather interspersed with frost.
This has led to some plant losses in the Garden, in particular, Rosemary, Santolina, Penstemon, Pittosporum and Hoheria have suffered. We will leave several plants to see if they will shoot again once the weather warms up.
On the bright side, we have managed to double-dig the lower half of the Blue Borders and plant this up. This was the worst area for bindweed, and these beds have been fallow for three years. We are excited to have these iconic Borders back for this summer.
The old Prairie Border is being altered to a Pink Border. This bed will ultimately be dug out to eradicate bindweed, but in the meantime, we have done some clearing and replanted the gaps, and we will add in annuals each year until we are ready to clear this bed.
Opposite the Vegetable Garden against the east wall, we have a new Fruit cage which some of you will have seen under construction during the latter part of last year. This has now been planted with Raspberries, Currants and Gooseberries and mulched in order to keep the weeds down whilst the plants get established.
Along the rest of the East wall is the Perennial and Shrub cut flower bed, which has established well and is now clean of bindweed. We will be carrying out the final planting of the wall shrubs and climbers this spring which will complete the planting here. The annual cut flower bed has 4500 Tulips, with the early varieties coming into flower now. This will provide a selection of Tulips for the House until the end of May.
The Rose Garden and the top section of the Blue Border will remain empty again this year to enable any remaining bindweed and ground elder to be treated. If all goes well, we will dig these next winter and plant them early in 2024.
The right-hand side of the Entrance Border has been cleared of all the perennial plants with the aim of controlling the bindweed here. We have left all the shrubs in place to provide structure during the coming summer. The left-hand side has established well and should provide a long season of interest, starting with two early Clematis koreana varieties on the fence.
New planting has also taken place in the Herb Garden and hot border, and all of the plants have been potted on and cut back in the Display House, ready for the new season.
Finally, the new Banks Border just outside the west of the Walled Garden is clean of perennial weeds and we have made some initial planting here. In May, we will add plants Joseph Banks saw or collected on his round-the-world trip with Captain Cook between 1768 and 1771. This planting is taking place to link the Garden to the House, which has a room dedicated to Joseph Banks, whose wife Dorothea Huggeson was a distant relative of the present Family. Some of these plants are on the tender side, so they will be planted in May when the risk of frost is over.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the garden staff and volunteers who have worked through some challenging conditions this winter to advance the garden and get it ready for opening this Easter. We look forward to welcoming everyone for the 2023 Season.”