June was a wonderful month for a garden visit to West Dean and July looks set to be the same. Plenty of sun filled days after the relentless winter rain have put a skip into the visitors step as they come along to enjoy all aspects of the gardens and there is certainly plenty here to tempt them.
Within the Walled Garden, Stuart, one of the woodies (gardeners who look after trees and shrubs) plus our French volunteer Franck have been taming unruly cordon fruit trees whose summer growth requires a decisive snip to bring them into line once again and see their shape restored. Wonderful! The same thing is happening in the vine houses where extravagant growth from the vines has been removed by William (another woodie!) so that once again they look like cordons instead of triffids.
When you are in the Walled Garden you might see two gents, Malcom and Mario, replacing the top vents on some of our ¾ span houses, as after over 100 years the vents no longer operate as they should. So by renewing and rebuilding we hope that these glasshouse galleons will sail into the future for others to enjoy. Elsewhere under glass the chillies, double cordon tomatoes and aubergines are growing strongly and producing fruit. Along with regular feeding they receive regular doses of biological control agents which come by post and are used to control pests on plants - mealy bug and red spider being the main two. Visitors are always welcome to open doors to have a look at what is being grown in each house unless advised otherwise.
We are also in the process of potting up some of the small plants in the decorative houses. Glasshouse gardener Chris is selecting plants which need a larger container and rearranging the collections once they have returned repotted. It's a time consuming task requiring an artistic eye to create a pleasing display and… wait for it…the bromeliad house is once again full of plants so do take a peek, it's the house at the end of one of the pit houses.
In July the Kitchen Garden is burgeoning with summer crops, the potatoes have been harvested by 'Shaun the Kitchen Gardener' and now a crop of leeks stands in its place. Courgettes are cropping and the next generation has been sown ready for the top border in a month's time. All the peas and beans are standing to attention and even the outdoor tomatoes are thriving - so far. There are plenty of benches in the Kitchen Garden where you can sit and watch the workers work - always fun especially as you don't have to assist!
For the first time the meadow grasslands in the gardens and the arboretum are being cut and baled by agricultural machinery wherever possible. Hopefully this will cut down on the time required to complete the task. The wild flower displays, plus increasing populations of orchids, gave great delight in spring but now we require this space in the gardens for this year's shows hence the mowing. However a further display of wild flowers will develop under the fruit trees in the Walled Fruit Garden over the next couple of months for everyone to enjoy.
Don't forget to check out all the borders. These are located along the pergola, in front of the house and in the Walled Garden and for heaven's sake get yourself up to the arboretum at least once this year- you'll be ever so pleased with yourself for making the journey and delighted in the views. Don't forget tea and cake in the Garden Restaurant on your return.
Exciting News - the Sunken Garden has won the Sussex Heritage Landscape & Gardens Awards 2014. The Sunken Garden has recently reopened after a six year period of restoration.
It's that time again…are you ready for our hot annual event? Make a note in your diary for the West Dean Chilli Fiesta visit www.westdean.org.uk for details.