Looking Good - March

Did you see the naturalised bulbs in action at West Dean during February this year? If you missed the display poor you as it was a sight to gladden any heart. On sunny days, the gardens were bathed in a symphony of mauve, yellow and white as the bulb flowers opened their faces, creating a photographer's dream shot. Not bad for those who just want to stand and stare either. This is why we garden, to create these moments of pleasure for everyone. Next stop primroses, cowslips and, later, flowering bulbs like fritillaries and daffodils.

Over winter, plans were made for the coming season but actually doing the work is ultimately balanced with the prevailing weather which has been pretty ideal this winter - not too cold or wet nor too warm - so far, so good. Shaun the Kitchen Gardener is whirling like the proverbial spinning top preparing the ground in the kitchen garden to receive the first outdoor crops, mulching the soft fruit with our very own compost, planting the first salads in the vegetable frame, as well as planting lettuce in one of the unheated glasshouses. Shaun is also responsible for sowing seed for the salad leaf display in pots under glass which will be open for viewing shortly.

Anne the border queen has just blitzed the climbers on the pergola and the rambling roses in the walled garden and will soon be onto staking perennials, where necessary, and lifting and dividing some of those in the mixed borders. Anne is also responsible for the cut flower section in the walled garden so will be especially busy over the next couple of months marking out the site and either direct sowing or planting modules. We're hoping for a colourful 2015 in this part of the garden. Under glass Laura is continuing with the potting up of our collections. This takes quite some time as she tailors pots and different composts to suit the needs of each group of plants. Alongside potting is pot washing which carries on for as long as we require particular pots. The terracotta pots are such a feature of West Dean's glasshouse collections, it would be hard to imagine the plants in anything else and we are proud to continue the tradition of using them.

Shortly un-mulched garden beds will receive either a layer of our own bark chips or compost to prevent weed development, and help to conserve soil moisture in summer months. For tasks like these the help of our volunteers is invaluable. Often you will see a team of volunteers in the gardens helping the gardens team to keep West Dean in apple pie order. It's a rewarding activity and for many volunteers allows them to continue their love of gardening and to see how a garden of this size is managed behind the scenes.

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Looking Good - March

Cowslips
Shaun the Gardner
The 300ft Edwardian Pergola at West Dean Gardens
The terracotta pots are such a feature of West Dean Gardens glasshouse collections.
The help of volunteers at West Dean Gardens is invaluable.