It’s not all cups of tea by the wood burner in the potting shed for our Garden team here at Doddington. They are out caring for the gardens no matter what the weather throws at them. Head Gardener, David Logan, explains all about winter work in the gardens.
After finishing our busiest time of year (Christmas trees!) we were straight back in the gardens catching up on all the things we didn’t get done in December. So the leaves were raked up and the sticks were all picked up and we even cut the grass once! Which, for me, is the first time I have ever cut lawns in January. Then we turned our attention to more serious matters.
I think that the major difference between a professionally kept garden and your garden at home is winter work. Notice I’m talking about the garden and not the gardener here. Although I’m a professional gardener, my garden at home is practically neglected during the cold winter months. But here at Doddington, we’re all out for 8 hours a day. Never have a lazy day. There’s always something that needs doing! That’s the trick of successful gardening.
Summer work is all about trying to keep on top of the plants. Keep the weeds, grass and the shrubs under control. That’s all you have time to do. But in the winter, when everything is dormant and more forgiving, you really have time to set things up for the year to come. Make a few changes. For me, all the more interesting jobs are done at this time of year.
We have been doing some restorative pruning on all of our apple trees. The fruiting clusters had all started to become leggy, with too much vertical growth. We’ve been in with our pruning saws (even chainsaws) and reduced everything back. Simplified things. Next year we may not have as many apples but after that we should have a much healthier harvest. More air travelling through the crown of the trees means less diseases and cleaner, juicier fruit.
Soon we will start going through the herbaceous borders. It has taken a few years to get to know the borders, there are so many plants packed into them. But now I have got to know them it is really one of life’s pleasures, slowly working my way round them cutting down last year’s dead stems, pulling out the weeds and moving and splitting certain clumps. The more work put in at this time of year, the better they will look later on and the less weeds will be working their way up through the flowers.
The seed orders are all done. The vegetables and flowers for the year ahead have all been decided and every week there is a new delivery from one of our suppliers. Little rattling packages all full of promise. Peppermint celery, bright red pumpkins, a very informal bedding scheme and a new wallflower mix will all be with us this year.
The other thing we have is prep for our events. The garden is reawakening ready for the Spring Bulb Pageant with snowdrops multiplying by the day and pops of colourful crocuses starting to appear. I’m still taking stall holders for our Plant Fair (14 May), which promises to be our best one yet. The Cherry Blossom Festival, Iris Week, PYO Pumpkins and even Christmas are all being discussed! There is plenty to do, for both me and you, so I’d better get on!