Spring in the garden at Croft

The secret garden in spring at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Jonathan Kellett, our gardener in charge, reveals how him and his team care for the garden as it starts to spring to life:

"It has been a pretty harsh winter so far with more snowfall in December than I have ever known in my eight years at Croft. One of the joys of working in the garden is experiencing a heavy snowfall first thing in the morning when everything is pristine and silent. The garden looks so different and it is hard to imagine that in a few short months it will be full of life and we will be doing battle with the weeds again."

Heavy snowfall at Croft created a winter wonderland in December 2017
Heavy snow in the gardens at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
Heavy snowfall at Croft created a winter wonderland in December 2017

"Already we are seeing signs of life returning to the garden with frogs and toads already active in the pond and blackbirds and thrushes singing in the mornings. The bird feeders are amazingly busy with goldfinches, long-tailed tits, nuthatches and siskins filling up on fuel to get them through the cold weather."

See if you can spot a thrush in the garden at Croft
A song thrush at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
See if you can spot a thrush in the garden at Croft

"Snowdrops are flowering and early daffs are coming through well as are some of the 4000 tulips we put in the year before. Other spring bulbs to look out for are muscari, scilla, puschkinia and chionodoxa. All in all it should be a spectacular spring display."

See sprinklings of snowdrops at Croft
Close-up of snowdrops at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
See sprinklings of snowdrops at Croft

"At the moment we are working through the borders in the garden dividing and replanting some of the big clumps of herbaceous perennial plants such as rudbekias, helianthus and echinops. Every two or three years it is good practice to divide plants - they definitely benefit from the procedure and it means you get more plants to move around. We grow a lot of plants that are really good for butterflies and bees and we hope to have yet another good year for insects."

Our dedicated group of garden volunteers are hard at work all through the year
A group of volunteers carry out garden work at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
Our dedicated group of garden volunteers are hard at work all through the year

"We are also working on our old apple trees which were planted about 80 years ago. We open up the canopies to let in air and light and spur prune the branches to create a good strong framework for the apples to grow in."

Autumnal apples in the walled garden at Croft
Apples in the walled garden at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
Autumnal apples in the walled garden at Croft

"Winter is enjoyable for us even though the cold weather is challenging and the kettle goes on more than it would in the summer. There is a change in the garden though and you can feel the slow turning of the seasons. Apparently spring moves up the country from north to south at about 4 miles per hour which is about walking pace, it would be nice if it jogged occasionally!"