Gearing up for opening

Last year's Wigwams at Arundel Castle.
Last year's Wigwams at Arundel Castle.
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March is a hectic but exciting month in the gardens of Arundel Castle. Every day the landscape and gardens change with early flowering cherry trees and forsythias adding to the profusion of colour of the flowering narcissus (daffodils), crocus scillas, hyacinths and even some early tulips.

The castle garden team is now in fifth gear sowing copious amounts of vegetable and annual plant seeds, which will be pricked out and potted on into modules. Some of the annual plants we are growing for this year’s display are Cleome Spinosa - Helen Campbell & Colours Fountain, Cleome is also known as the “spider flower” as they have stunning spider like flowers and are excellent in herbaceous borders either to fill in gaps or as drifts. Cosmos Sonata and Bipinnatus are lovely in swathes or block planting, the seeds can also be directly sown, or you can plant them under heated glass, but wait until April as they germinate and grow particularly fast, if they get a bit too leggy before planting out you can pinch out the top out. But my favourite summer annual is Salvia Horminum, commonly known as Clary, they look stunning in drifts in herbaceous borders, the bracts (coloured leaves) have lovely pastel shades of purple blue, soft pinks and white, if you can find some seed I would recommend them as they also self-seed for next year. We harvested some of our seed last autumn for this year; you can also directly sow them.

In this part of the country, due to the warmer climate, you can directly sow hardy vegetables and annual flowers outside, this helps us a great deal with not having to worry about additional storage space as every inch of our glass houses, potting sheds and polytunnels are totally full!

Last week we’ve been making our unusual natural “wigwam” frames for runner beans, sweet peas and other climbers. We make these out of local hazel and wood vines such as “Travellers Joy” (old man’s beard), they were so admired last year that one visitor asked if we ran courses on how to put them together! We couldn’t offer a course but we were more than happy to arrange for her husband to come as a volunteer for a day so he could learn first hand how we make them, not only did he leave knowing how to create his own wigwams at home, but he brushed up on his pruning skills, hopefully had a great birthday present from his wife and left his mark in the castle gardens for everyone to enjoy, we were very grateful for his help and delighted that we have inspired others to be creative.

Here are a few tips from the castle garden team:

Continue to mulch your beds to help retain moisture in the soil, this may be crucial with the shortage of water and could make a huge difference to your garden this summer.

l Prepare frames for runner beans and sweet peas etc.

l Lift and divide clumps of perennials, share with a friend when possible.

l Complete pruning your roses.

l Re-seed bare patches of lawn.

Happy Gardening!

We open the Castle gates on Saturday, 31st March for the season and for full ticket booking and tour details visit the castle website at

The Arundel Festival starts on the 19thAugust until Bank Holiday Monday, 29th. Here at Arundel Castle we are hosting a great Concert and Opera in the Barons Hall (22nd& 23rd August) and within the Collector Earl’s Garden the GB Theatre Company will be performing Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night (25th& 26th).

Martin Duncan - Head Gardener Arundel Castle