Gardeners cuttings from Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Winter work in the garden at Sissinghurst

This month the team are hard at work preparing for the March opening as well as hard pruning the hedges along the Yew Walk.

February is a month that can test the gardeners’ patience and flexibility, there is still so much to do to get the garden ready for opening, but also so many tasks that are weather dependent and more often than not it seems to be against us.

We are still working through the beds in the garden, clearing them of the previous season’s debris, removing last year’s annuals and cutting down hardy perennials. We do leave some of the slightly more tender plants, such as Penstemon and Kniphofia until early spring to keep them protected for a little longer against the cold.

Although most of our roses have been pruned by February we save the tender ones, such as the floribundas, hybrid-teas and china roses, until March.

 This year we have decided that it is time to give the yew hedges in Long Yew Walk a severe prune to rejuvenate them. The hedges have been getting wider over the years, with the path down the middle becoming narrow and dark.

 Yew responds very well to hard pruning and so we have decided that this year is the time to ‘bone’ them back. This involves cutting one side of the hedge right back to the stems; allowing more light to the plant which will stimulate dormant buds under the bark into new growth. Within a couple of years there should be plenty of green growth creating the start of a new face. The other side can be cut back in a similar manner after about 5 years.

If you are able to visit Sissinghurst later in February and take the tour of South Cottage you will walk past a bed of bright yellow Eranthus hyemalis (Winter Aconite) flowering just outside the Cottage. 

Winter aconite (Eranthis cilicicus) in March
Detail of winter aconite yellow flower in earth
Winter aconite (Eranthis cilicicus) in March

It is also worth looking at the large tree, Parrotia Persica (Persian ironwood), outside the Cottage that is surrounded by the aconites, and if you look carefully you will see the tiny dark red flowers which can look lovely against a blue sky.  

As we are working through the beds it is lovely to see the first signs of bulbs appearing, not only snowdrops but also shoots of early daffodils begin to push through the soil. You realise that spring is not so far away.