Spring time in the garden

Mrs Winthrop's garden in spring

There is lots to see in the garden this spring, with lots of work going on behind the scenes. Sarah, our assistant head gardener, explains what has been going on in the garden and what you can look forward to seeing on your visit.

What a difference a year makes. Last year we had lots and lots of snow fall with its ensuing damage and low temperatures. This year we had a mild winter allowing us to get along with lots of work.

The last few weeks have seen sunny days and temperatures high enough to enable the honey bees to start flying and collect nectar from all the early spring flowering bulbs and plants. Spring really seems to be rushing along in its welcome cloak of blossom and birdsong.

Magnolia just coming into flower
Magnolia just coming in to flower
Magnolia just coming into flower

Behind the scenes work

If you are a regular visitor to the garden you will see lots of work has been done in the garden whilst we’ve been closed during the winter season.

You will see all the hedge cutting has been completed and the structure or formal outline of the garden is clearly visible, which is less noticeable when the borders are in full bloom later in the year.

The borders in all areas of the garden have been cleared and some mulched with our own compost. This is always very satisfying, as it feels like you are giving the plants a bit of TLC.

All the rose pruning has been completed and during March we will be mulching them all with organic rose mulch.

Tree work 

You will notice that 10 of the Holm Oaks have been re-pollarded. This is the removal of branches to a central point on the trunk – new branches then grow from this point. This keeps the trees a lot smaller than they would grow to if left to grow naturally.

The Holm Oaks at Hidcote were planted by Lawrence Johnston to give the impression of Olive trees from a Mediterranean garden.  We do this pollarding on a rotating basis. There has also been a lot of other tree work undertaken, including the cherries in the Pillar Garden and the Red Borders.

Cherry trees are relatively short lived and our specimens have slowly been declining in these areas. As well as this, they have grown out of scale for the Red Border and Pillar Garden and are shading out the planting.

Their removal gives us an opportunity to look at the planting in relation to historical documentation and think about how, in the future, we redevelop these areas in a more historically accurate way.

In the meantime, their removal will allow more light and air movement into both areas and will help with the health of the remaining planting in here.

Tree surgeons scaling trees at Hidcote
Tree surgeons working
Tree surgeons scaling trees at Hidcote

What's happening in the Bathing Pool?

You may also notice on your visit that the water in the Bathing Pool has started to foam. Over the last few years we’ve been having problems with the water clarity of the Bathing Pool and we are in the process of trying to improve this.

We had the water tested recently and this showed we had high levels of nitrates and nitrites. These, with low levels of aeration in the water and organic matter in the bottom of the pond, which is nutrient rich, help create the greening of the water. 

Our challenge is to clear the water in a safe way so that it doesn’t affect the wildlife in the pond. A pump has been installed to aerate the water and it is the action of this aeration colliding with the organic matter that creates the foam.

Now that the aeration has begun we can start to add a liquid barley extract and a ‘mud muncher’ (selected micro-organisms that digest organic matter) to help clump the algae and break down the organic matter in the pool.

This will be added now the water temperatures are starting to rise in March. Whilst all this activity is going on in the water we will be reviewing the filtration system.

We hope by actively looking at ways to bring back the balance of the pond water we can once again have a clear pond for you to enjoy.

Spring colours coming to life in the garden

March will see the borders start to emerge from their winter dormancy into growth. The spring planting will start to fill the parterres in the Maple Garden, East Court and the Fuchsia Garden.

Blossom will be emerging on the Cherries and Magnolias and leaves will start emerging in every area.  The garden team will be lifting and dividing herbaceous perennials and weaving hazel pea sticks to provide support for them as they grow and the Hydrangeas will be pruned. 

Propagation for all the annuals that are to be used in the garden will be well under way and preparations for new, improved Asparagus beds will be taking place in the Kitchen Garden.

New raised beds and cold frames can be seen next to the glass house and will be used to bring on all the young plants in readiness for their planting out in the wider garden.

The irrigation system has been turned on again in readiness for the new season as this was drained down over winter to protect it from bursting in the winter weather.

Spring lawn care will start and the mowing will continue as the grass grows more quickly in the milder weather. There is never a quiet moment in the garden for the team and volunteers who work here at Hidcote.