What's looking good in spring? Part 1

Welcome to West Dean Gardens! A soggy December saw 2017 rainfall almost catch up to our 30-year average of nearly 41 inches, which ensured that the River Lavant started flowing in the Gardens right at the end of 2017. Story goes that the flow might be aided by January's wolf moon - who knows? But it's a joy to see it running once again. 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.

There's a lot of hustle and bustle under glass in January as all the ornamental plants are attended to before they are set up for display in their respective houses. Some plants are merely given a pot wash and leaf clean whilst others are split, amalgamated or potted up ready for the New Year. The displays are made up of essentially the same plants from year to year although displayed in different ways annually and augmented with annual sowings of ornamentals, which will give seasonal colour interest. It's always interesting to see what's available in the catalogues for this very purpose and part of the joy of horticulture.

The salad leaf and herb display started life in January with many modules produced ready to be potted on in early February. The selection of attractive salad and herb leaves seems to increase annually and they really enhance this edible display as do bowls and troughs of salad mixes, which act as anchors to the rest of the display.

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 bound, so 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.

January is Jack's month, as he beetles his way around the whole of the Gardens each day with a band of merry volunteers preparing beds for their annual coating of mulch. Much tidying and cutting back is involved. Mulching will be our big occupation prior to the bulk of the bulbs appearing above ground through late February to April; it tends to be a race against the clock but Jack's up for it!

Elsewhere in late winter-early spring, Will is trimming the evergreens to keep them under control and Stu 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. Spring is the time to think about rejuvenating your own borders at home and with this in mind, we'll be selling small herbaceous plants at competitive prices to help you. So after a wander around the Garden and Arboretum, not forgetting the essential tea and cake, have a look at what is on offer in the Shop.

Plan ahead for Mother's Day and Easter at West Dean Gardens by visiting www.westdeangardens.org.uk to see what will be on offer in the Gardens this year.

Sarah Wain, Garden Supervisor