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Archive for March, 2014

Visit Sissinghurst Castle Gardens this April

Monday, March 17th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

It was interesting to watch on BBC’s Countryfile recently the feature about Vita Sackville-West and her upbringing at Knole. As the daughter she unfortunately didn’t inherit Knole but with her husband Harold in the 1930′s she went onto buy Sissinghurst Castle and began a transformation of the gardens. Harold mainly planned the garden structure, whilst Vita turned her attention to the planting schemes.

Today the house and grounds are looked after by The National Trust. It’s only a short drive (half an hour) from Tunbridge Wells, along the Biddenden Road, near Cranbrook.

The gardens are open from 11am – 5.30pm. The Castle and Grounds are surrounded by a working farm, ancient woodlands and parkland of c 450 acres. The house dates back to the Middle Ages. It was bought by Sir John Baker ( one of Henry V111′s Privy Councillors) in 1530, when it was greatly enlarged by him and his son.

The Castle and Gardens are well worth a visit and during April are bursting with colour.

A brilliant vantage point is to climb the Tower and see the structure and beauty of the garden, then plan your tour accordingly. You will see from the Tower that the garden is split up into a whole series of rooms, all with their own unique planting schemes.

The Lime Walk is among my favourites, but you must spend time in The White Garden. The White Garden was originally planted as a rose garden in 1931, but later altered in 1950. Vita referred to it as her grey, green and white garden. There is no escaping the brilliance of her focus, and the end result is a captivating space, that’s very romantic.

For a good lunch, nearby Biddenden is a picturesque Kentish Village with pleasant pubs. Alternatively stop off at Goudhurst on route. I’m reliably informed that The Vine, Goudhurst has just undergone a restoration and offers excellent fare. I must treat myself to a visit!

You can see more about Sissinghurst Castle and Grounds at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle

Further details about The Vine at Goudhurst can be found at www.thevinegoudhurst.com

For further information about Gardenproud please contact Tim Sykes, on 07725 173820,  or via email at info@reallygardenproud.com


It’s March and the garden beckons

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
After one of the wettest winter periods on record we all look forward to March with a little prayer that the weather might improve for us gardeners.
At the time of writing Sarah and I have just returned from a very pleasant walk with Basil our dog, around the grounds of Burrswood, Groombridge. It was heartening to see that the daffs were starting to appear and the snowdrops were out, so maybe Spring is not that far away! Visit the Crown on the Green. You will be welcomed by a very friendly landlord, and if you are lucky the dog will get a treat!

Before we journey outside, I wanted to share with you some photographs of Amaryllis that have been appearing on our Gardenproud Facebook page. We gave a number of our friends Amaryllis bulbs for Christmas and pictures have been flooding in of their progress, so we have posted some of these on our Facebook page. Interest in the progress has come from a number of people, including would you believe Judi Cohen from New Jersey, USA – the wonders of social media! Judy sent us some amazing photographs of her Amaryllis. Her secret to creating wonderful flower heads is to restrict the soil content of the pot. I put the bulb in very little soil, forcing the action away from the roots and into the bloom.” So a tip to remember for 2015.

March is always a good time to be attacking the moss on your lawns, and boy have I seen a lot moss around the gardens of Tunbridge Wells recently! So a good scarifying, followed by a feed could help give the lawn a bit of a lift before the growing season gets a hold. If the lawn is particularly bad you may need to aerate the surface and give it a top dressing and over seeding. Watch the temperature though, because your seeds won’t germinate in cold weather.
Cotswold Grass seeds who are one of the leading suppliers recommend “Soil temperatures needs to be in excess of 4°C, usually late February in Southern UK, two weeks days later in the North. The optimum soil temperature for seeds to start chitting is 7-10°C which is usually reached by mid – late March across the UK.”
One of the things you are going to have to watch (as soon as the temperature rises) is weeds. Last year we had quite a wet start to the year and the weeds grew like mad. So given this years dose of rain you’ll need to get on top of the bed maintenance pdq.
Here a few additional thoughts on March from our friends at RHS:
1. Remove dead foliage, weed and top dress pots and containers with fresh compost
2. Protect new spring shoots from slugs
3. Divide overgrown clumps of perennials
4. Start mowing the lawn, as the weather becomes drier
If you have a vegetable garden then now’s the time to plant out your shallots, onion sets and early potatoes. When the ground is suitable you can plant new fruits, including raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries and blackcurrants ( lots of fruit plants like a free draining, acidic soil, so it maybe sensible to check the pH levels and then mix in horticultural grit, with a good ericaceous compost).
If you haven’t done it already remember to prune your apple and pear trees before the first leaves start to break.
Whilst things will be hotting up in the garden, March is also a great time to be tweaking the beds for your summer borders. Think about the effect you want to achieve, the relative heights of plants, or bulbs once they are established, then look at the borders and decide which of your existing plants you want to keep. It’s also a good idea to have a colour palette in mind. The trend is towards more focused palettes, which I like. So you might mix lilacs, violets, blues, creams and whites, but avoid yellows, pinks and oranges. You’ll be able to select your summer flowering bulbs from the local nurseries.
All of the local ones have a great choice, but you can also find an excellent selection on the J.Parker’s website www.dutchbulbs.co.uk If you prefer a catalogue, then call them on, 0161 848 1124

Finally, another date for all your diaries! Don’t miss the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor this year! It starts on April 23rd. Entrance is £10 and the festival runs until 5th May. This year will mark their 20th Anniversary, so I’m sure the displays will be stunning. Don’t miss the restaurant, so time your visit around lunchtime!
I hope you enjoy your garden this March.
For further information please contact Tim Sykes, at Gardenproud 07725 173820, or at info@reallygardenproud.com