December at West Dean
I feel as though I'm in the wrong story- more White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland (its late! its late!) than bringing December news from West Dean on time. Who says there isn't much to do in the garden in winter. West Dean Gardens will remain open until Sunday 21st so there is still time for you to visit our Gardens Shop for Christmas gifts and enjoy the delights of the Gardens Restaurant; best to get in quick as we will be closed throughout January 2015, reopening on February 1st. At this time of year you can take advantage of our reduced entry fees to the gardens too.
I'd like to report that the annual glasshouse cleaning was achieved in record time this year with five absolute garden troopers putting their backs into cleaning our lovely glasshouses thoroughly from top to bottom and inside and out. That is all 12 (one is being rebuilt) of them plus our four sets of frames. What a herculean task! Despite the seemingly endlessness of this activity the high standard of cleanliness was maintained to the end, so these old glasshouses will once again dazzle the garden visitors in 2015.
Winter weather seems a moveable feast these days, and the milder late autumn and early winter weather saw an unseasonal surge in grass growing. In the past we would have been able to almost stop mowing by Christmas but not this year. As I write, Shaun the Kitchen Gardener is mowing the orchard, reducing the height of the wild flower sward so that bulbs will shine like jewels on a green carpet early in the New Year. Tim, our Mr Fix It, has been attending to the rest of the grass mowing in the gardens praying that the growth will stop soon. Surely it will!
Anne the Border Queen and Jack the Gardener are patrolling the borders in the main body of the gardens, clearing the herbaceous growth in preparation for the bulb bonanza next year. They are being ably supported by our wonderful band of volunteers. Although most of our bulbs are naturalised in lawns, there are pockets of them throughout the borders and clearing now means they develop without having their heads chopped off if this task was left until later. Bulbs transform gardens, are a worthy investment, and a joy to behold at the beginning of the new season.
Those trusty chaps at the end of hedge trimmers are shaping the greenery through the gardens. Green topiarised shapes set against the informality of the garden landscape, shine through in winter or at any time of the year really and when it snows or is frosty they add a welcome quality to the garden in winter and become really photogenic. If photography is your thing West Dean Gardens provides opportunities for dramatic images throughout the season and if you'd like to learn more about taking cracking photographs there are courses on photography at West Dean College, see our website for details.
If you are new to the place make sure you beat the boundaries of the whole Garden and Arboretum throughout your visits. St Roche's Arboretum is a real treat at this time of year and provides a destination for a winter stompwith your friends and family.