Autumn / Looking Good

November at West Dean

A dry September – the driest on record has been followed by a reasonably damp October (so my wish for rain was granted!) this year and I must say the recent weather has created perfect conditions for planting, of which we’ve been taking advantage. As I write we have yet to suffer a frost which is reflected in the warm soils and ideal conditions for plant establishment although it also means the grass is continuing to grow through autumn but is slowing down.

Wrest Dean potting shed

At this time of year there is a flurry of list-making as jobs to be done in the gardens are arranged and rearranged according to the weather and priority. It’s all about housekeeping in November, a case of which glasshouse to empty then clean and in which order. Some collections in the glasshouses will stay put for a while longer while others are broken down so that we can get into the houses to scrub and clean. Once the plants are out you can really see the need to clean the house and if you like suds and a scrubbing brush this is the job for you. Even now there are some lovely collections to admire under glass, especially nerines which after a mass potting session at the end of summer, have been flowering mightily. Next year we should have a knock-your-socks-off display as the bulbs continue to grow over winter in preparation for 2015 flowers.

IMG_3700Alongside washing the outside of glasshouses, Stu (one of the woodies) has been taking the saw to some of the apple trees in the fruit garden. Over time their centres have become congested with branches which affect light penetration and the development of fruiting wood in the future. By clearing out the central stems, more light will work its magic on the remaining branches so we can look forward to good apple production in years to come.

It’s that time again for the annual pot wash of our lovely terracotta pots which we use for all our display plants under glass. As well as looking marvellous and supporting our selection of plants under glass, the pots over time become a home to pests like spider mite and mealy bug. Both these pests don’t need plants over winter and the rims of pots are ideal places to hide in; but with soapy water and a scrubbing brush the pots are restored to hygienic cleanliness.

West Dean, the potting shed

The annual naturalised bulb planting has taken place for this year and the numbers planted were not as large as last year (thank goodness say all the gardeners). It’s a task for three people: one on crowbar to make the hole, one planting, and one with club hammer to close the hole and before you laugh, we have planted hundreds of thousands of bulbs this way so I invite you to come along in the spring to see the grand effect.

A stomp up to the arboretum will show you the ongoing work on this little piece of paradise. As the site is so large (approx. 50 acres) the gardens team have to nibble away at the work and it takes years to accomplish some tasks but now you can see the affect and new vistas have been and are being created for all to enjoy. So once the bare patches have been sown with wild flower mixes, the Arboretum will become even more beautiful.

Sarah Wain

Gardens Supervisor

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