Garden of the Season – Gordon CastleMarch 8th 2021
As we welcome in the first signs of spring, the snowdrops, daffodils and birdsong, it seems like nature is a metaphor for life during these difficult times. Gardeners have always heralded the hope that green shoots bring at this time of year, and we could all do with a large dose of that!
Here at Gordon Castle Walled Garden we have said a thankful goodbye to the biggest snowfall for 10 yrs, and a difference of 20degrees from one weekend to the next. Time to get back to the never ending tasks that a productive kitchen garden demands.
Preparation is key, we start the year by mulching all our cut flower beds with home grown compost which helps improve the structure of our sandy soil and adds nutrients to feed our beautiful blooms. We also cut down green manure crops, planted in our four large vegetable beds in the autumn to stop soil being washed away and nutrients leaching out, we manure them and plough everything back in so replenishing the soil each year. We use a four year crop rotation which helps avoid pests and diseases taking hold but it means that we have to put up structures such as bean poles, teepees and willow cages to grow our gourds up in a different bed each year.
The garden is still in the restoration stage, although we hope the building and hard landscaping stage is nearing the end. It has been 6yrs of hard labour from the 8 acre grass field we started with to laying 48,000 bricks to edge our beds, 2.5 km of paths and about the same in metal and wooden edging. We have been finishing the NE corner of the garden by adding 24 more step over apple trees and finishing paths. At the other end of the garden we have been digging four trenches which will be home to yew hedges which will eventually screen parts of the garden and help create more “rooms”.
The other major development this winter has been adding some height and structure to our 100m long central borders in the shape of Fagus Sylvatica Purpurea topiary pillars and spheres. We redesigned these borders with the help of Arne Maynard during the first lockdown, using herbaceous plants in a beautiful, soft colour palette of blue, purple and white with touches of yellow and apricot and we cannot wait to see them in full bloom this summer. They compliment the lavender ribbons that are at the heart of the garden around a dipping pond. We have given some goldfish a home, hoping Mr Heron does not visit too often!
Our first apricot blossom has appeared to be followed by plum and apple blossom. Our 20,000 crocus bulbs will soon provide a carpet of colour before the tulip display brings its own showy, blousiness. There is always something to look forward to.
We do not start sowing until after Valentines Day, as we wait until there are 10hrs of sunlight, ensuring our seedlings do not grow too leggy. It is a huge undertaking to grow 15,000 plants so we have a sowing spread sheet organised by Ed, our Head Gardener that we stick too rigorously. We have started with the sweet peas, cabbages, cauliflowers kale and tomatoes, closely followed by chillies and peppers that need a long growing season. A military operation before the pricking out and potting on gets out of control and we run out of space in the heated greenhouse. Seedlings are moved from the propogator to benches to our restored Mackenzie and Moncur cold glasshouse and finally outside to harden off before planting.
Our 3 pairs of oyster catchers will soon return to nest in our gravel paths, the bees will be pollinating our 750 fruit trees, the robin’s will feast on the worms as we dig the soil and the swallows will welcome us every morning from under the eves of the potting shed. We have all felt fortunate to be in such a magical space surrounded by nature and wildlife whilst so many are stuck indoors. We look to the months ahead with hope that we can once again share the Walled Garden with others and have a summer of sunshine and laughter.
With Mothering Sunday on the horizon we are sad not to be hosting our lunches in the café, but hope it will not be long before we can welcome visitors from near and far back to enjoy everything that gardens have to offer all ages. Flowers make you smile and you can pick up a beautiful bunch from our potting shed stall or take home some tasty homegrown vegetables.
Whether you have a large garden or just a pot or two on a balcony we encourage you to get sowing, get growing! It is good for your soul and will bring great satisfaction and happiness when your vase is filled with flowers or your plate with homegrown tasty veg. Good Luck!