Daffodils are in flower and there are signs of swelling buds and shoots appearing out of the soil in the garden. The lawns are also starting to grow – very slowly but there is definitely more grass there. And as we move out of the dark month of February and into March with its longer days there is the sense of a new season and light and warmth! The preparation of the beds for the new season is done and the tasks of sowing, planting, growing and maintaining is about to start.
For me this is the best time of the year – possibly because I am 21 again, again! – but more likely because it is a time of getting back to the basics of starting plants etc. I still get a real buzz when sowing the tiniest of seeds and a few days later leaves appear and after a bit longer there is a real plant!
We have been told today by the meteorologists that this winter has been the sunniest winter since 1929 when records began. I wonder what other records will be broken by the weather in 2015? I am hoping for a warm summer with just enough light rain at night to keep the plants happy and the garden growing well, and for our guests to enjoy the gardens and the estate.
Tree of the Season: Cedar of Lebanon (cedrus libani)
In the Formal Gardens we have recently planted two new Cedars of Lebanon that will act as replacements when our two wonderful older cedars are no longer a part of the skyline.
It is native to Lebanon, Syria and southern Turkey and the mountains of Lebanon were once shaded by thick cedar forests. The ‘Cedars’ in the Qadisha Valley of Lebanon, a natural wonder dating back to ancient times are now a World Heritage Site. The Cedars of Lebanon are linked to many stories from the Bible, so they have a strong religious significance to many people.
The Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks and many others used cedar because of its beautiful colour, hardness, fragrance, resistance to insects, humidity and temperature. The Phoenicians built their ships from cedar wood as well as the roofs of their temples, houses and doorsills. The Temple of Jerusalem and David’s and Solomon’s Palaces also were made of the wood of Lebanon Cedar.
An oil similar to turpentine is obtained from the wood and essential oil from the wood is used in perfumery. Some parts of the tree work as an antiseptic.
Herb of the Season: Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
We grow two types of Tarragon in the Walled Garden – French Tarragon and Russian Tarragon. Artemisia dracunculus, is cultivated for use of the leaves as an aromatic culinary herb. Tarragon is found natively in a number of areas of the Northern Hemisphere. It grows to 120–150 cm tall, with slender branched stems.
French tarragon is the variety generally considered best for the kitchen, but is never grown from seed as the flowers are sterile; instead it is propagated by root division. It likes hot conditions in well drained soil. However, Russian tarragon is a far more hardy and vigorous plant, spreading at the roots and growing over a metre tall. It prefers poor soils and happily tolerates drought and neglect. It is not as strongly aromatic and flavoursome as French Tarragon, but it produces many more leaves from early spring onwards that are mild and good in salads and cooked food.
Flower of the Season: Daffodil (narcissus Rembrandt)
The first of our spring display bulbs are blooming and Daffodil narcissus Rembrandt came out first although on paper it should not be until a bit later. Daffodils have long been considered one of the heralds of spring are native to northern Europe and widely cultivated there and in North America. Planted in autumn, they spend several months developing roots before the flowers burst forth in spring. They can be planted in borders and containers.
“The March wind roars
Like a lion in the sky,
And makes us shiver
As he passes by.
When winds are soft,
And the days are warm and clear,
Just like a gentle lamb,
Then spring is here.”
– Author Unknown