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:

"On the whole, the winter has been relatively kind to us in the garden – the main thing is that we have had several decent hard frosts which always help get rid of a lot of nasty bugs and spores which can cause problems if the winter is constantly damp and above freezing. We always feel that a good hard frost sort of re-sets factory settings and plants know when they are supposed to spring in to life. A bit different to the winter of 2012/13 when I picked a decent bunch of flowers on Christmas Eve!

Signs of life are appearing all the time, snowdrops are coming in to flower and daffodils and tulips are sticking their heads over the parapet. We have planted about 4000 early season and mid-season single tulips throughout the garden and they should start to flower from the end of March. 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

"There are also signs of spring in the garden from the wildlife that lives at Croft. Birds are singing more and more, especially blackbirds and thrushes that are marking out their patch and scouting for the best nesting sites. We are putting up new bird boxes throughout the garden mainly for the smaller birds and we have also created a bird feeding area with a woven willow arbor to sit in. The first frog of the season has been spotted in the pond and on warm days you can hear the basso profundo croak of a toad which is always a welcome sound."

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

"There are a couple of really interesting birds around at the moment. One of them is the hawfinch, a robust and stocky seed eater which can be seen perched at the top of trees at this time of year especially in areas where mature hornbeam trees grow. You can’t mistake him for anything else due to his huge beak which is strong enough to be able to crack cherry stones. The other species to look out for is the enigmatic goshawk, a large powerful bird of prey, a bit like a sparrowhawk on steroids and well equipped to take fully grown pheasants. The Goshawk does quite a bit of display flying in early spring to establish a territory and the piercing call sends a shiver down your spine."

Our garden team have been putting up new bird boxes in the garden
A bird box at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

"Elsewhere in the garden, the restoration of the Edwardian glasshouse continues – it is due to have a coat of paint this year which should make it look stunning. We are planning to grow a lot more exotic species to give more of a hothouse feel to the place and hopefully we will get the sunny weather to go with it."

Come and see the restoration of this glasshouse in progress
A view inside the glasshouse at Croft Castle and Parkland in Herefordshire