Rain gives gardens a big boost

Salvia Hominum.
Salvia Hominum.

THANKFULLY the long awaited rain has arrived just in time to ensure the castle gardens continue to thrive without having to use our valuable water supplies. The grass is greener, the trees look lush and our scented plants, such as the roses in the Rose Garden and our English Lavender in the walled garden are all refreshed, encouraging more and more of our local bee population back into the gardens.

In the Rose Garden we have a number of old varieties of roses such as Rosa rogosa alba, Rosa Winchester Cathedral and Madam Alfred Carriere they give some wonderful and interesting fragrances.

I recently had some friends visit the Rose Garden and on smelling one of them, the son commented on how it reminded him of a particular type of boiled sweet, his father also agreed, after a lengthy discussion it was agreed that the only solution to solve the mystery of which sweet it was they visited Sweet Memories, a traditional Arundel sweet shop. Strangely enough it turned out to be Scottish sweets called Oddfellows (no reflection on my friends mind you!) that tasted of the scent of the castle rose!

There are so many plants to see in the gardens at the moment it is hard to name them all, but our English Lavender is doing well in the walled garden.

The variety chosen is Hidcote as it not only gives a wonderful scent that attracts the bees and our visitors it also has attractive deep blue/purple flowers on silvery evergreen leaves that looks wonderful at this time of year.

Hidcote looks good as an edging plant or forms a great low hedge. We have planted ours in a bow tie effect alongside our blue Salvia Horminum (Clary sage) which gives a more formal look to this part of the garden.

Lavender is one of the oldest perfumes used in England, Queen Elizabeth I loved lavender and used it in her tea, which she believed helped her migraines, she encouraged the development of lavender farms in Britain and so when Henrietta Marie, wife of King Charles I, brought cosmetics to the English court from France, she was able to use it in perfumed soaps, water for washing/bathing and potpourris.

On a less attractive note, in the 12th century lavender oil was said to help rid one of fleas and head lice, at least the scent would have been attractive!

Our sweet peas are in full flower and inviting names such as Raspberry Ripple, which reminds me of a childhood ice cream, and our newly introduced Royal Wedding with their true white flowers that climb high above the lavender and salvia’s on the handmade iron pyramid that form the centre piece.

Our magnificent Magnolia Grandeflora are in flower, they have wonderful large citronella scented creamy white flowers and against the dark waxy leaves are great specimen trees, flowering is followed by the rose-coloured fruit.

Magnolia Grandeflora arrived into Britain from the southern part of North America (Florida, Louisiana and the De Soto National Forest in Mississippi) in around 1725, the castle trees would have been planted sometime after 1750s and so they are probably over 150 years or more old, some trees have been known to grow to 35m (114ft) high and so who knows what heights the castle ones will reach in time!

The trees can be found on the right-hand side of the drive leading towards the Fitzalan Chapel.

In the Collector Earl’s Garden the Lillie Nero and Allium Christoffi are looking stunning.

In the vegetable garden there’s plenty of fruit and vegetables flourishing, our strawberries and raspberries are regularly being picked for the castle, whilst in the Tropical House the garden team are watching with delight as our pineapple grows bigger alongside the Papaya and passion fruit.

A few tips from the castle garden team:

Frequently pick your sweet peas to enhance the flowering.

Keep on top of weeding and hoeing in your vegetable garden.

Prepare the garden if you are going away for the summer, set up an automated water system and have someone pick your fruit to freeze for your return.

Deadhead your plants, especially those in tubs and containers.

If your strawberries are doing well, grow strawberry plants from spare runners.

Feed herbaceous perennials.

Happy Gardening!

For further information on the castle, garden tours, opening times and events visit our website at www.arundelcastle.org