Welcome to West Dean Gardens in 2019

Who would have thought that after the heat and lack of rain of summer 2018 that we almost reach our average of 1100mm by the end of the year? Rainfall is a fascinating business and it's so interesting to see how differently it falls year on year. The River Lavant started flowing in December, which was a bit of a yah- boo to expectation. We get some idea of the flowing date from the depth of the water in the well in the Fruit Garden and it's astonishing how quickly this changes from one week to the next just before the river rises.

Preparation for display work under glass is well under way. Throughout January, seed was sown either directly into pots, bowls and pans or into modules for our glasshouse vegetable display. At the beginning of each year we grow salad leaves, herbs and baby vegetables in pots. It's an alternative way to grow these crops as well as a demonstration of how beautiful edible plants can be - which is a good thing as we look at them far longer than we eat them.

Now that the Glasshouses have been cleaned, we've been cleaning ornamental display plants, splitting and repotting where necessary and generally giving each an MOT. Regular plant inspections help to keep the plants in tiptop order but as there are hundreds, it takes quite a time to complete this task.
The Kitchen Garden has been cleared of annual crops in readiness for a thick coat of our own compost. Trailer loads of the stuff are spread over the area for the new season.

A year crop planner has been prepared for the site as well as the vegetable frame, so that we can plan and execute our work accordingly. We also have a planner for the Cutting Garden which guides us in propagating the plants for this area. The Orchard and other areas have been mown again before oceans of bulbs erupt; failure in doing this means that some of the diminutive flowers might be lost in a shaggy grassy sward or smothered by the debris of last year's plants. Jack, King of the Gardens, has been clearing the herbaceous layer throughout the gardens in preparation of the February to April bulb display and before the annual cover of mulch which will be spread by a team of garden volunteers. Hooray for volunteers!

Anne, the border Queen, has conquered the Pergola pruning once again, keeping her errant charges on the straight and narrow. Some of the more vigorous roses take great patience and understanding to keep their growth within manageable bounds. I know she's relieved when she can turn to the more manageable ramblers growing behind the yellow and blue border and the rose border in the Fruit Garden which also need her attention. Elsewhere in late winter-early spring, Stu and Will are trimming the evergreens to keep them under control and Brian is power-washing paths and places to control lichen and moss development. A lot of our seasonal work in the gardens is like housework, not necessarily sexy, but hugely important.

Don't forget your weekly walk up to the Arboretum or your tea and cake on return, and keep up to date with all things West Dean by visiting our website www.westdean.org.uk and signing up for our regular e-newsletter.

Sarah Wain, Garden Supervisor, 1 February 2019