Spring explodes at Leeds Castle
If you have visited Leeds Castle in recent weeks you will have noticed that it is all about the spring bulbs. Daffodils have been flowering in their masses, along with tulips and sheets of blue and white Anemone blanda (a tuberous root). Matt provides consultancy support to the Leeds Castle Foundation, and tells us what to expect:
Fortunately the bulbs will continue to delight us for a few weeks to come, and there will be much more besides, including flowering cherries and spring azaleas. As temperatures rise, all plants are beginning to awaken, which means that there is much activity in the borders and lawns.
Daffodils at Leeds Castle (Photo: Matt Jackson)
Sharp eyed regulars may have noticed that some lawns have not been cut, which marks a change in how areas of the grounds are going to be managed. Large swathes of grassland will now be managed for biodiversity, allowing the grass to grow, and to reveal its hidden secrets. It will also create a more natural setting for the castle. Managed as hay meadow, it will receive a ‘hay cut’ in July, and a ‘trim’ in October, allowing the natural seed stock to flower and set seed. This will in turn create a rich habitat for a wide range of insects, mammals and birds. Already the results are positive, with species such as Cowslips, Anemone, Dog’s Mercury and Common Spotted Orchids making an appearance. You can do much the same at home, and there is some helpful advice here: https://www.landandheritage.com/post/bring-nature-right-to-your-doorstep-and-park-the-mower-at-least-for-a-while
Natural grassland at Leeds Castle following the first spring without mowing (Photo: Matt Jackson)
Activity in the borders is picking up too, with buds beginning to break on the roses and other shrubs, and herbaceous plants starting to flush. The ornamental artichokes are well away, and we are already beginning to think about the need to ‘stake’ or support the new growth. As ever, the weeds will begin to romp along as well, so it is important to keep on top of them from early on. (TOP TIP: using a hoe to get weeds when they are small is the best management. Hoe for a few minutes once per week, and save hours down the line.) The grounds and garden team aim to keep ahead of everything, and have been assisted by a troop of committed volunteers, without whom the situation would be very bleak. Enjoying fresh air and exercise, they have worked hard throughout the winter to get the garden ready for spring.
Three of the garden volunteers with gardener, Franziska (Photo: Matt Jackson)
Visiting Leeds Castle over the coming weeks will see some exciting flowering displays. Not only can we all enjoy the energy and vibrance that the spring flush delivers, but we’ll also see the bright green emergence of trees coming into leaf; indeed the weeping willows have not disappointed. More than 200 flowering cherry specimens will bloom, some young and some old, providing a show all the way from the oriental gardens at the entrance, to the castle and on to the maze. Among these are the 30 gifted by the Japanese Embassy as part of the UK Sakura project, planted this year at the top of the Pavilion lawn. They will be followed by azaleas, including the bank of 500 evergreen azaleas planted three years ago in the oriental garden. It is also a good time to enjoy the landscape of the wider parkland, and the structure of the Culpepper Garden, with its formal hedges and herbaceous beds. The Lady Baillie garden is never disappointing, holding a strong structure all year round, reminding us of the Mediterranean, full of succulent and architectural plants.
It’s also time to think about our own green spaces at home, whether garden, balcony or planters. Clearing away untidy stems and leaves after winter is a good start, as well as getting on top of weeds early. Don’t rush to plant out tender bedding, as there is still plenty of time for frosts, but you can consider raking moss out of lawns and an early cut. Think about biodiversity and the natural world. If you can find a corner of grass to leave long, and another for brambles, foxgloves and nettles, then you’ll be rewarded by grateful wildlife too.