Gardens bursting into life

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THE rain has certainly come at the right time for us here at Arundel Castle; we have managed to collect many tanks of water from the glass house roofs and other buildings.

The rain has been steady and therefore penetrating the soil ensuring that our newly planted plants and shrubs are beginning to flourish and getting off to a fantastic start.

What an exciting time of the year this is with the herbaceous borders bursting into to life.

The soft English herbaceous borders are bursting with Dutch Iris, Delphiniums, Lupins, Nepeta and Aquilegia rapidly filling out the borders.

My favourite plants flowering now are the collection of Alliums which contribute to making the most stunning herbaceous borders. You can choose from a wide range of varieties to give your borders the required heights, sizes and structure, best of all though is that as they come back year after year they’re so economical.

We have increased the varieties of alliums on show this year and so you will find Allium aflatunense (flowering onion), Purple Sensation, Gladiator, Hair - these are the newest with a wispy cobweb type head, Christophii – large silvery lilac flower heads, Globemaster, Rosenbachianum and Summer Drummer – tallest of all Alliums.

Allium: it’s cultigen and is not known in the wild, comprises of more than 600 different species, which are found throughout North America, Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Approximately 30 species have been regularly used for edible purposes (although less than half of these are subject to cultivation), with the most important being onions, garlic, leeks, chives, and shallots.

Leeks: Allium ameloprasum, were well known to the ancient Sumerian, Egyptian and Greek civilizations. The Romans introduced them to the British Isles, where they became an important food source. The leek is the emblem of Wales, in commemoration of the victory of King Cadwallader over the Saxons in AD 640. Welsh soldiers wore leeks on their helmets to distinguish them from the enemy, one wonders if they were detected by their smell before making themselves know to their attackers!

The onion (Allium cepa) may have originated in Persia (Iran) and Beluchistan (eastern Iran and southwestern Pakistan). They have been known and cultivated for many thousands of years and no longer grow wild.

The organic kitchen garden is changing daily with the potato shoots already peeping through the soil. The lovely subtle apple arches are blossoming, they hold a number of varieties of apples (some of which are old Sussex ones), they all flower at a similar time which is crucial for pollination; our busy honey bees are already hard at work. One of our cooking varieties, called Peasgood Nonsuch has fruit that produces wonderfully large cooking apples – one apple can make a whole pie!

A few tips from the castle garden team:

Make sure you take action for possible night frosts.

Prune spring flowering shrubs once they’ve finished flowering.

Cut back and divide spring-flowering perennials.

Check young plants for slugs.

Continue sowing your vegetables, week by week.

Happy Gardening!

Arundel Castle & Gardens are Open Tuesday to Sundays inclusive and August Mondays and Bank Holiday Mondays. For full ticket details, events and tours visit the castle website at or telephone Information & Bookings Administrator on 01903 882173 extension 230.

Martin Duncan - Arundel Castle Head Gardener