Looking Good in March

At this time of year gardeners are delighted to see the first naturalised bulb displays as some sort of payback for a less-than-thrilling two months of cutting back herbaceous and applying compost and bark mulch over winter. We are now looking forward to the next floristic firework display of narcissi and fritillaries to come in March/April. The bulbs in the gardens are certainly working their magic on everyone, so do come along so that they can work their charms on you too.

On the weather front, the rain has been restricted to about 80mm for February which is good news for getting on in the gardens, but for ardent watchers of the River Lavant, the late arrival of any water in February and its leisurely pace towards Chichester, has been sad in a way as we're rather fond of watching river water hurl its way through the gardens during spring. There is still time for this to happen so I'd better be careful for what I wish for. The roses and clematis throughout the gardens have been given their annual realignment by Anne the border queen. It's immensely satisfying to see their outline before spring appears when they erupt into chaotic delight. Anne will soon be editing the mixed borders throughout the gardens - reducing the exuberant, gapping up where necessary and staking the unwieldy; all tasks which will easily take her through March, April and into May. For staking we use hazel cut from the woods on the West Dean Estate.

Under glass, Christina has returned to take up the potting baton part-time while Laura looks after baby Holly for this year. Slowly the displays in the warm and intermediate houses are taking shape as she introduces newly potted plants. Come now and see the verdant displays so you can appreciate the difference in a couple of months' time when flowering plants start to flourish.

Shaun the kitchen gardener has created a wonderful display under glass of potted edible salad leaves and herbs. This is the first vegetable display in the gardens. There is also a display of winter tolerant lettuce to see in another glasshouse. Outside in the kitchen garden, first plants have been established in the vegetable cold frame as well as under the barn cloches at the top of the kitchen garden against the south facing wall. In the main beds recent applications of our own compost will boost this year's vegetable crops and for the first time the soft fruit have been mulched with rotted bark compost - it looks marvellous almost edible in itself!

When you come to West Dean don't forget to allow yourself plenty of time to wander and explore, particularly if you plan to walk up to the Arboretum. What could be better than choosing a sunny day for a vigorous stomp up onto the downs with your family and friends? All that goodness will be quickly rewarded with a cuppa and cake at the Gardens Restaurant on your return. In addition, for all garden lovers, there are terrific plants to purchase at the Gardens Shop, particularly the small £2.25 herbaceous plants which are selling for six for the price of five; so no excuses for not creating your own floristic paradise at home. By the way they also make excellent presents.

Remember us as a destination for Mother's Day, 26 March. Visit our events page for details and please come and see us in the gardens, a Spring Pass will allow you unlimited access to watch the progress and developments of the gardens throughout this season. See you soon I hope!

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