Daffodils at West Dean Gardens West Sussex

Spring is Springing!

Who remembered that days of sunshine could be quite so blissful- last summer seemed so long ago? We are actually working outdoors without wet weather clothing for the first time in ages and are really feeling the benefit. The spring season has just gone into turbo mode and it's revving furiously so consequently our work pace quickens to keep in touch with the seasonal changes - we're not quite frantic but borderline. These are the busy months of spring when seed sowing, pricking out, planting, trimming, mowing, potting up, pruning and mulching occupy our days.

The recent sunny days has given Shaun, the Kitchen Gardener an opportunity to dig in manure in the potato patch and it has also allowed him to tread and rake all the beds in the Kitchen Garden ready for sowing and planting. Two weeks ago this appeared as though it was going to be an impossible task this season as the rain seemed never ending. But as I write the potato bed has just been planted with early potatoes, garlic and shallots and exhibition onions, currently in pots, will be planted out later this month along with parsley which also enjoys this rich soil. First plantings of peas, broad beans and cabbage under cloches are in as well as first sowings of radish, spring onion carrot and beetroot.

We are awash with different hues of yellow; daffodils are nodding furiously throughout the gardens mostly in grassy swards but also in garden beds. It's an arresting sight and will soon segue into other colourful displays as the vibrant bedding plants take over properly. Fritillaries alongside cowslips and primroses will soon be flowering their socks off in the developing wild flower sward in the Walled Fruit Garden beneath the apple trees which are flowering too - it's a floristic extravaganza!

Border News: April will see Anne, the 'Border Queen' using hazel pea sticks to create artistic cages to contain the unruly members of the flower beds such as aconites, clematis, asters and alstromeria. These are creative structures in themselves and do their job well by keeping their subjects more or less upright. By now the borders have been fed and lightly forked over ready for the new season but some dividing of perennials is required this month. As rambler roses and viticella clematis on the pergola and in the walled garden start to spring into action, Anne will be tying them in on a regular basis. She will also be planting and sowing hardy annuals in the cutting garden throughout April.

The final touches of fruit tree pruning are in progress, oblique cordons are lookin, well, oblique and the espaliers are looking suitably horizontal. Apple and pear blossom in April is staggering to see so don't forget to poke your head into the walled garden for a look. Any new vine growth under glass requires immediate attention in April as laterals are pinned along the wires. It's quite a sight when cordon vines come into growth and worth seeking them out in the three vineries.

There is far too much to write about at this time of year as so much is happening in the gardens, so when you visit leave plenty of time to experience the lot.

Sarah Wain
Gardens Supervisor