As a gardener, it's very easy to become obsessed with the weather, but I think over recent weeks it's quite justifiable. Unseasonably dry and sunny weather has given way to snow and freezing temperatures, making it feel as if we've gone back in time to the middle of January. Like gardeners, the gardens at West Dean are resilient and soon recover, Easter brings a sense of optimism as the garden along with its wildlife burst into action.
As you visit the gardens, you’ll notice some new projects in our Spring Garden which include a new Woodland Garden and an area of spring flowering shrubs around the Tennis Courts with a new Dye Garden to follow shortly.
The area of the Garden around the Wildlife Pond has been given over to encourage biodiversity with deadwood habitats, dead hedges, and a discreet fence to give the wildlife opportunity to thrive.
In our Walled Garden, George and Ann have been replanting the Hot Border with a selection of naturalistic perennials, with particular emphasis on flowering in the late summer and autumn. The dynamic duo in the Walled Garden are also putting together a large delphinium display, a new Chrysanthemum bed as well as a large Zinnia display in association with Chiltern Seeds.
In the previous blog, I wrote about the new West Dean Nursery, which is gathering momentum, you'll notice that more and more plants available at the visitor centre are produced on-site, by the Gardens team.
The Market Garden project is underway, although we have diverted away from a large site in favour of several smaller plots around the campus, making use of some of the large gardens that we have with our student accommodation.
Over the summer, we will be transforming these spaces into productive plots and already have started to plant 80 clumps of rhubarb and 1200 asparagus crowns to supply food for the College and our visitors.
Keep your eyes peeled for news about an exciting event that will be happening in the summer. I am inviting several very prominent gardeners and their nurseries to celebrate herbaceous perennials in a public event at West Dean, more details to follow soon.
Tom Brown, Head Gardener