What's going on in the gardens in May

April this year lived up to its lively reputation of sunshine and showers with the sting of a cooler days and cooler nights at the end so we're feeling anxious about frosts at the moment but happy that it's not raining 24/7. It's a wonder we're not all bald from pulling our hair out trying to anticipate and work within the bands of changing weather; but gardeners like farmers are generally fretful abut weather forecasts and it keeps us on our toes at this time of year.

The trenches for the new biomass boiler have now been reinstated and turfed over, an unexpected addition to the seasonal schedule of jobs-to-do. Choosing the right moment for using machines to help us in this task, has encouraged regular scrutiny of weather reports to make sure we don't start something which we can't finish due to rain/sleet /snow- take your choice!

As spring blooms and with the last of the daffodils still waving furiously, new plants are going into various sites around the gardens. Young plants, largely half hardy, which have been nursed over the winter months in the glasshouses and cold frames, make their way to the borders in the gardens during early May. To accompany these, new planting areas, such as the bedding borders west of the college, require some new plants which we buy in from wholesale nurseries. It's a juggling act trying to get them all planted in the sunnier weather and we'll be watching the forecast over the next few weeks in case we have to take drastic action against frosts. Enough about the weather!

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Jack be nimble

Jack, the gardener who rotates around the garden from one end to the other accompanied by a band of willing volunteers and the blue ford tractor, keeps the site managed and weed free. He has the biggest job of any of us in a sense, keeping his eye on 35 acres so that no weed infestation gets a chance to seed and multiply. He's a friendly chap so give him a wave when you walk by.

Victorian glasshouses

As the intensity of the sun increases, summer shade is applied to various glasshouses depending on the requirements of the plants inside. April showers have played havoc with the applications so far, so more have been added. Many of the plants inside, especially plants from jungle environments, are not used to direct sunlight and it would affect their development if they were exposed, hence the need for vigilance in shading. I always think it's a shame as the collections would be more enticing if you could see them from the outside. Having said that there is a lot to see once you open the doors- 1st generation melons and cucumbers are up, the fern house is looking delicious as are the temperate, bromeliad and tropical houses and one of the pit houses is absolutely jammed packed with chillies. Outside in the walled gardens the fruit trees are starting to bloom.

Dig Deep and Save our Precious glasshouses

Plant sales

The plant sales area next to the garden shop is part of the glasshouse house gardeners remit so each day Laura, or Barry our trainee, check it for watering and rearrange where necessary. May is the busiest time for plant sales other than August, so plant deliveries come in 3-4 times a week to keep the site freshly stocked.

St Roche's Arboretum

The arboretum still awaits your viewing. The cowslips, sheets of them, are looking magnificent.

Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor @sarahwestdean obtained a three year Diploma in Horticultural Science in Australia. Sarah's career in Melborne included managing a local council nursery and the gardens at Burnley Horticultural College, where she trained. In the UK Sarah worked in the temperate department at Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew for three years. She is the recipient of the Institute of Horticulture Award and a member of the RHS Vegetable Trials Forum.

www.westdean.org.uk