Winter in the garden at Croft Castle

The apple orchard covered in snow at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Croft’s gardener in charge, Jonathan Kellett, is busy all year round with his dedicated team of staff and volunteers and winter is no exception. Read on for some handy tips and ideas for caring for your garden during the frosty winter months.

People often remark that it must be a quiet time in the garden with not an awful lot to do at this time of year. In reality it is a really busy time for us.

For starters we are at the mercy of the weather being hurled at us from the Welsh hills which can make the simplest jobs a bit of a challenge. Holding on to a ladder when you're pruning an apple tree in a biting wind can be character building to say the least. At least this week the weather is mild and we are in the middle of pruning our apple trees – all 58 of them, mostly dating from the 1930s.

" Holding on to a ladder when you're pruning an apple tree in a biting wind can be character building to say the least."
- Jonathan Kellett

They are all mature specimens and we prune back all the fruiting spurs when they are dormant. Hard work but really rewarding when finished. The orchard is full of birds this time of year with flocks of redwings and fieldfares feeding on the last of the windfall apples. We also get green woodpeckers (also known as yaffles because of their strange laughing call) as well as long tailed tits and tiny goldcrests which weigh about the same as a twenty pence coin.

See if you can spot a green woodpecker in the gardens at Croft
A green woodpecker at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

If you need any advice on winter pruning of fruit trees or any other aspect of winter gardening please come and ask – we are happy to give practical demonstrations.

We have just completed the pruning of our 450 grapevines which takes about a week with the help of our marvellous volunteers. Hopefully they will sprout again in early May although we always have an anxious time of it, wondering if they have made it through the winter (the vines that is, not the volunteers).

The productive 'phoenix' grape which is used to create the Croft wine, on sale in the Stables shop
The vineyard at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

We have also been cutting back all our herbaceous borders, raking up leaves to make leaf mould, mulching all the borders and generally getting rid of a lot of debris which gives us an excuse to have a bonfire. Our Edwardian glasshouse always gets a good clear out and clean at this time of year which helps reduce any bugs or diseases which could affect the plants. Even though it is pretty much empty at this time of year it is still a marvellous structure to admire and to perhaps sit in for a while on a cold day.

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

It is always special working in the garden in winter. It is peaceful and quiet and the place has a very different atmosphere. Croft feels somehow even more ancient in winter and it is a great time to visit and experience its tranquillity and stark beauty.