Blaze of colour for summer

With all the excitement of the Olympic Games now at an end we look forward to the Arundel Festival about to start. The Olympic flame may be out in London, but here at Arundel Castle our stunning Kniphofia are more than making up for it with their blaze of colour.

‘Kniphofia uvaria’ originates from the Cape Province of South Africa and has been introduced into many parts of the world as a garden plant. These plants produce spikes of upright, brightly-colored, red-to-orange flowers. This gives names such as “torch” and “red hot poker” to many of them. The Kniphofia is named after Johann Hieronymus Kniphof, an 18th century German physician and botanist.

Not only do we have the pokers brightening up the gardens, but so many other striking plants such as our more exotic ‘Canna iridiflora’ and ‘Canna malawiensis’.

Whilst the ‘Acanthus’ (Bear’s breeches) is a brilliant structural perennial plant, the shape of the leaves are often found carved into the top of Roman Columns. They have glossy foliage and impressive, long lasting flower spikes in summer. At Arundel Castle we have Acanthus mollis and spinosa.

The Salvia and Penstemon collections are showing off their true colours with the ‘Salvia Hot Lips’, with their white flowers, tipped with scarlet red, literally looking like lips which always remind me of the TV programme MASH! But my absolute favourite is ‘Salvia uliginosa’, this will make any herbaceous border attractive, especially when inter mingled with ‘Verbena bonariensis’.

The ‘Salvia Horminum Clary are in full flower with shades of blue, pink and white, the colour extends from the green bracts and so you can literally see them change colour the further up the plant . A few of the ‘Penstemons’ to look out for are ‘Sour Grapes’, ‘Rich Ruby’, ‘Garnet’ and ‘Apple Blossoms’.

One of the most talked about plants in the organic kitchen garden at the moment are the ‘Tree Tomatoes’ or ‘Tomatillo’. They are about 7 feet tall and have very attractive fruits dangling from the branches. The fruits can be eaten fresh by cutting it in half. Originally grown in South America, Bolivia and northeastern Argentina, it’s been commercially grown for the past 50 years in New Zealand, and is easily propagated from seeds and requires frost-free conditions.

Our Tamarillo trees are overwintered in the Vine House and only brought out in the summer.

The ripe fruits are ideal for jams, jellies, chutneys, syrups and sauces. They can also be cooked and added to soup and stews. The fruit is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C and E.

The garden team is busy collecting seed, like any garden it is an ongoing circle of life, we have starting collecting some of our most wanted seeds for next year.

We are often asked “When do I collect the seeds”? Our answer to this is: “As soon as your seed head dries out, is the best time to collect”.

Here are a few seed collecting tips from the castle garden team:

It is always good to mark the plant you want to collect the seeds from prior to it going to seed, to ensure you collect the correct seed. For example if you have a number of different poppies in a border label or mark the ones you want the seeds from, this ensures you collect the right ones.

You will need a supply of paper bags or envelopes and a good pair secateurs or sharp scissors.

Try to collect whilst it is a dry day (around noon when it is at its hottest).

Some seed heads (Acanthus mollis) you can tie the bag over the head and then just shake the seeds into the bag (i.e. poppies etc). Others, like our Salvia Horminum seeds, are sticky and a little more time consuming as one needs to carefully remove the tiny seeds from the husks bit by bit.

Happy Gardening!

Arundel Castle & Gardens are open all 7 days during August. See website www.arundelcastle.org for garden tours, events and Arundel Festival information.

Martin Duncan - Arundel Castle Head Gardener