A recent look at pictures taken in the Gardens at the same time last year show just how far behind this spring has been compared to 2017. This means, in terms of fruit blossom, most of it is all before us. Hoorah! Cherry blossom will soon fill one wall in the pit yard and pears and apples won't be far behind, so there's plenty to ooh over if you visit West Dean in the coming month, not forgetting the flowery meads that have been created throughout the Gardens and Arboretum. The Fruit Garden is awash with fritillaries as I write, pop in soon if you want to catch them.
It's been a rare old spring with bitingly cold winds, freezing temperatures and rain aplenty. We've been moaning about not being able to get onto garden beds to plant, so when the weather is fine for a couple of days, we are in like Flynn. I can report that potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, parsley, lettuce and chard have been planted and we're just waiting for some warmer weather to sow parsnip, carrot and beetroot.
You will see that our largest three-quarter span glasshouse in the Walled Garden is shrouded in scaffolding as this house is in serious need of rejuvenation and has been decommissioned until it can be attended to. The Fern House and the Fuchsia and Pelargonium House will begin their facelifts shortly. These houses will be completed before the three-quarter span is tackled. We're still requiring financial help, no matter how small, towards the costs of repairing all our glasshouses to secure their future; click here for donation information. While all this is happening of course, the crops have to live elsewhere so ferns are taking a vacation in the Cucumber House and pelargoniums are in the Melon House temporarily. It's been a season of adapting to change - a cold spring, glasshouses and frames out of action, so perennials will have to harden off out of sight this year in a polytunnel in our works area. Here we can easily water the young plants as they harden off and prepare for their life outdoors. They will be planted in the latter part of May from 1 litre pots throughout the flowering borders.
St Roche's Arboretum - how this site has changed over the years! It's become a far friendlier place to walk - less gloomy, with new views being opened up into distant glades enticing you to amble at will - which is what it's all about. If you go off piste, just keep going uphill and you'll meet a path at some stage that will take you to the exit gate. The cowslips and wild flowers will soon be flowering their socks off and with the removal of various clumps of laurel, you'll be able to see them and even the trees more readily. A walk through parkland, sheep and lambs before you get there is an added bonus, but please keep your pooch on a short lead at all times.
Much is happening to the buildings in the Gardens at the moment, so you're going to find scaffolding around the Orangery - new roof and the House - also new roof! Nothing stays as it is and to keep these buildings in tiptop condition, they need repair, so just turn your back on the scaffolding and enjoy the views instead. I think the view of the South Downs from the front of West Dean College is fantastic and worthy of admiration throughout the seasons. Now after the cold, cold, early spring you're probably finding that some of your little darlings in the garden have not pulled through. Nil desperandum! At West Dean Gardens Shop there are plenty of 9cm herbaceous plants to choose from to replenish your plot. Why not come along to peruse and make your selection. A cup of tea and something delicious is also on offer in the Gardens Restaurant. Marvellous!