Spring in the garden at Scotney Castle

Sunny spring at Scotney Castle

As the days get longer and warmer its a perfect time to visit the garden at Scotney Castle. Colour is beginning to appear throughout the garden from clusters of snowdrops to flowering trees and shrubs and so much more.

Spring has arrived and we have a wonderful array of flowers looking their best. Stroll around the garden with colourful displays of flowers, admire the castle’s reflection in the still moat, or venture further afield to the wider estate to see spring unfurling.

A landscape with drama and romance

From the early 18th century, British landscape gardeners had been creating gardens inspired by pictures, but by 1800 a backlash had set in. Critics considered the grassy vistas designed by Capability Brown too smooth and tidy. Scotney's picturesque garden is a last fling in this backlash style of gardening.

A fairy-tale feel

The garden has naturalistic planting which is seemingly untouched by human hand and its cloud-like planting of rhododendrons and azaleas creates a fairy-tale feel, with the ruins of the Old Castle at its centre. Wisteria and old English roses adorn its sandstone walls, whilst the surrounding herbaceous beds are always throwing out new colours throughout the seasons.

Seasonal highlights around the garden

This spring, you may notice the view from the house down towards the old castle looks different due to work the garden team have been doing over the past few years.

As you head down towards the Old Castle you will notice that the large rhododendron and kalmia beds have been cut back hard. This level of pruning may seem like quite a drastic step to take but unfortunately the rhododendrons had grown to a height that the picturesque view was slowly disappearing, and the shrubs were also merging into one and slowly smothering each other. We are undertaking the pruning work in stages and having started last year with two more years to go, the majority of the plants in the beds will be pruned back so that in future we can keep the height of them at a level that is easier to maintain. By doing this work in stages we can ensure that there will always be flowering shrubs in these beds to continue to add interest to the garden throughout spring.

A garden volunteer weeding in the quarry at Scotney Castle
A garden volunteer weeding in the quarry at Scotney Castle
A garden volunteer weeding in the quarry at Scotney Castle

Rhododendrons are very tough plants and new growth on pruned branches will start to re-sprout in the coming weeks, and over the next year or two new flower buds will start to be produced putting on a vibrant display in the main lawns for many years to come. We will also be planting with more suitable varieties of kalmias. 

At the end of last summer, the garden team reinstated the grass paths that once used to run through the middle of the bed so you can experience these beautiful shrubs close up. The wet autumn ensured they were well watered so we hope to have these open daily so you can explore a new area of the garden

Elsewhere around the garden, plenty of bulbs and shrubs are in flower, including these stand out varieties:

Snakes Head Fritillary at Scotney Castle
Snakes Head Fritillary at Scotney Castle
Snakes Head Fritillary at Scotney Castle

Snakes Head Fritillary

Fritillaria meleagris. Fritillus refers to the chequered pattern on the petals, with ‘Snakes Head’ deriving from the flower shape resembling that of a snakes head. It is uncertain whether it is a native of Britain, but it has been cultivated since 1578 and was first recorded growing in the wild in 1737.

Wild Tulip at Scotney Castle
Wild Tulip at Scotney Castle
Wild Tulip at Scotney Castle

Wild Tulip

Tulipa sylvestris. Named the wild or woodland Tulip, this yellow pointed flower has a delicious lemon scent. It is uncertain whether it is a native of Britain, but was in cultivation in Britain by 1596 and was recorded growing in the wild in 1790. Its native range extends from Portugal and Morocco to western China.

Silberschmelze at Scotney Castle
Silberschmelze at Scotney Castle
Silberschmelze at Scotney Castle

Silberschmelze

Erica x darleyensis. Its name means ‘molten silver’ and it produces silvery-white bell shaped flowers between December and April. It was originally found by Georg Arends in Wuppertal, Germany and was introduced by him in 1937. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Azalea at Scotney Castle
Azalea at Scotney Castle
Azalea at Scotney Castle

Azalea

This azalea is from a group called the Kurume hybrids. It is an evergreen azalea named after a city on the Japanese island of Kyushu called Kurume. They are derived from a species native to the southern part of Kyushu island.

Primrose at Scotney Castle
Primrose at Scotney Castle
Primrose at Scotney Castle

Primrose

Primula vulgaris. Our native primrose is one of the most familiar spring flowers. With delicate pale yellow fragrant flowers and deep yellow centres, Primroses are low carpeting perennials which bloom from early March to May.

Eastern Cyclamen at Scotney Castle
Eastern Cyclamen at Scotney Castle
Eastern Cyclamen at Scotney Castle

Eastern Cyclamen

Cyclamen coum. Cyclamen is from the Greek kyklaminos, from kyklos meaning ‘circle’, alluding to the coiled stem of the seed vessel. Coum means ‘of Cous or Cos’, an island near Turkey. Flowers are dark pink with a purple blotch at the base of each lobe, and flower from December to March.

Hoop Petticoat Daffodil at Scotney Castle
Hoop Petticoat Daffodil at Scotney Castle
Hoop Petticoat Daffodil at Scotney Castle

Hoop Petticoat Daffodil

Narcissus bulbocodium. The Hoop Petticoat Daffodil has golden-yellow flowers with large, funnel-shaped trumpets that open wide giving the appearance of hoop petticoats.

Native English Bluebell at Scotney Castle
Native English Bluebell at Scotney Castle
Native English Bluebell at Scotney Castle

Native English Bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Commonly found in woodland, this native wild flower has existed since 1600 and almost half the global population of bluebells is found in Great Britain. The native bluebell has a distinctively drooped flower stem, a sweet perfume, narrow bell-shaped flowers with rolled back tips and creamy white pollen.

Inside the Walled Garden

Take some time to visit the Walled Garden to see spring flowers in bloom. The cut flower beds are full of fragrant hyacinths, daffodils and tulips, ready to bring some colour and fragrance to the house. The over winter produce is growing well and will be ready for harvest in a few months time too - just follow your nose to the garlic beds and look out for the gardeners preparing for the growing season this summer.

Spring flowers in the walled garden at Scotney Castle
Scotney Castle spring flowers walled garden
Spring flowers in the walled garden at Scotney Castle