Cosmetic brush used to help pollinate fan-trained peaches

ONE of the nicest tasks for the castle gardeners at the moment is for them to spend time helping to pollinate the fan-trained peaches in our wonderful Victorian Vinery/Glasshouse.

In the Victorian times pollination would have been done by using a soft rabbit’s tail on a stick to gently move pollen from flower to flower like a visiting bumble bee.

Today we use two methods; one is for our gardeners to get busy with a soft cosmetic brush (currently on loan from someone’s make-up bag!) and the other is a more natural way by bringing in a small hive of bumble bees, they both work together to ensure pollination occurs at the ideal time of the day, when atmospheric conditions release the most pollen.

It is wonderful how nature still teaches us all when the time is right for certain tasks.

One of our fan-trained peaches is the Prunus persica ‘Flat China’, which is round and flat with a wonderful sweet taste and the variety was first shown to the Horticultural Society in 1819.

These peaches are very popular throughout the world, although not seen that often in Britain.

The Vinery/Glasshouse, originally built in 1850 by Clarke & Hope, has been restored to its former glory.

Most of the original glazing survives, held in place with wrought iron frames, the brick wall and plinth to the front is in Flemish bond with stone coping. The original structure had 28 bays, which were divided into two sections.

Today’s structure was restored using parts from the two original glasshouses. We now have varieties of red and black grapes with such intriguing names as ‘Buckland Sweetwater’, ‘Lady Downe’s Seedling’ and ‘Mrs. Pince’s Black Muscat’.

Next to the Victorian Vinery/Glasshouse there is a wonderful Tropical House, full of unusual specimens of fruits and vegetables, we currently have fruiting paw paw’s and a nice pineapple to harvest for the castle - delicious!

Our gardeners Stuart Whitson and Nathan Treadwell have just been pricking out the chili seedlings ready for our summer display, they are grown in our tropical glasshouse giving our visitors much to talk about with their striking colour, unusual shapes and debatable heat content, all come with a notice of caution!

One macho young visitor was seen last year gasping for water as he left the tropical glasshouse in a hurried manner, as you can imagine I did not have to ask what was wrong, please note we do not recommend this to anyone, they are far better just admired!

Outside in the gardens there is a perfusion of colour with carpets of crocus, cyclamen and the narcissi (daffodils) all letting us know that spring is on its way.

Here’s a tip, when you use freshly cut daffodils for flower arranging make sure that you keep them separate in water for a day or so before adding them to an arrangement, especially if you are using tulips.

Naturally if you just want a vase of daffodils on their own you can arrange them straight away.

Date for your diary - we open again on the 1st April.

A few tips from the castle garden team:

Time to wake up your lawn after its winter sleep by spiking it with a fork or use a purpose-built aerating tool, rake out old dead grass.

Prick out seedlings only when they are large enough.

Mulch bare soil in beds.

Prune shrubs back into shape.

Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials.

You can now plant out your early potatoes.

For further information visit our website at

Happy Gardening!