The garden is still closed to the public for the winter but it’s not long now until we re-open on 14th March, and there are plenty of jobs the team and I need to tackle before then.
One of the key tasks is pruning the wisteria that covers the front of the garden entrance building. We do it once at this time of year, before it starts into growth, and then again in August to keep it tidy and in check. We’re also about to start renovating the deciduous mixed hedges around the Azalea Ring and at the edge of the Garden of Allah, thinning them out and cutting back old wood to encourage new growth. The big deciduous hedge all around the South Park has already been cut back by a farmer for us, so that now has nice straight edges and looks so much smarter.
As winter-flowering shrubs like wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) have finished flowering we’re beginning to prune them back to keep them in shape, and deciduous grasses like Miscanthus and Molinia that we left over winter to add interest and structure to the Grassy Knoll are now being cut right down to the ground.
There are Cornus on the South Lawn by the tearoom, on the West Bank and in the Garden of Allah and it’s the colour of their new young stems that we grow them for, so we’ll soon be cutting them back to ground level too, a process that’s known as ‘stooling’.
And it’s time to start all our dahlias tubers into growth, so we’ve begun to bring them out of their storage crates and into the Propagation House, where they’re going into trays of slightly damp compost. Dealing with dahlia tubers is always a bit nerve-wracking – when they come out of the ground at the end of their flowering season the trick is to keep them moist enough that they don’t dry out, but not so wet that they rot while they’re being stored over winter. We always put them in a cool outbuilding known as the Boiler Room (though there’s been no boiler there for years), which is slightly damp and stays at a relatively constant temperature and, so far, they’re all looking good.
By far the biggest job of all at this time of year, though, is pruning the roses. We have over 1000 here at Borde Hill, so it’s a major undertaking. We’ll spend several hours each day on it over a three-week period – so if anyone reading this has just a few roses to prune, spare a thought for us! It will be worth all the hard work, though, when they come into flower – the Rose Garden is always a glorious sight in early summer.
One last thing I’m champing at the bit to do this month is mow the lawn. It’s been such a mild winter that the grass hasn’t ever really stopped growing, but we are on clay here and it’s just too wet to get out there with machinery, so grass-cutting is going to have to wait until we finally get some prolonged dry weather. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait too long.’
Although the Garden isn’t yet open to the public for spring, there are plenty of bulbs and shrubs in flower for the Stephenson Clarke family, the Tennants living at Borde Hill and the gardening team - to enjoy themselves this month before they throw open the gates on 14th March:
- Garrya elliptica