Getting ready for the spring and the warm growing season

Time to start chitting your potatoes.
Time to start chitting your potatoes.

THERE is nothing better than to get out and about in the crisp winter sunshine and enjoy all that spring promises to offer. With the days getting longer it is a time to look out for buds swelling; ready to burst open, when the temperature rises.

Our snowdrops (Galanthus) have sprung into life as they meander in drifts and swathes.

Snowdrops can give a magical look in any garden or landscape at this time of year. Snowdrops are the pride and joy of gardeners throughout Great Britain and steeped in history.

The soldiers returning from the Crimean War (1853-54) brought them back in their kit bags and this ignited the collectors’ enthusiasm, these collectors are called Galanthophiles’.

The term galanthophile was probably invented by the noted British plantsman and garden writer E. A. Bowles (1865–1954) in a letter to his friend Oliver Wyatt, another keen collector of bulbs, whom he addressed as “Dear Galanthophil”.

Clearly as he lived to the great age of 89 this is a good sign for all gardeners.

James Allen (1832–1906) was probably the first person to raise hybrid snowdrops from seed.

In 1891 he reported that he grew every known species of Galanthus and had raised over 100 distinct seedlings, but much of his collection was lost to botrytis and narcissus fly soon afterward.

In the Horticultural Week magazine (28th January 2011) there was an excellent article on Galanthus and some of the best varieties they recommend to look out for are Atkinsii, one of the finest snowdrops with tall stately flowers that increase well.

Lady Beatrix Stanley is an unusual elwessii double; the flowers have two tiny green marks at the base, clearly visible through narrow outer segments.

One of the last to flower is the Straffan which are very showy and vigorous, often producing two well-formed large flowers per bulb.

For fear of becoming a Galanthophile I shall lead you onto the topic of potatoes as it is the best time to set early varieties such as Swift, or Rocket to chit.

We place ours in egg boxes in a light warm place so that their eyes begin to grow.

You can set them out on a window-sill, or near the window of an unheated room.

The small stems or chits should be well developed within three to four weeks. Early potatoes can be planted at the end of February in a warm sheltered spot or if colder wait until March.

It is best to buy blight resistant seed potatoes.

Neil, one of our invaluable volunteers and with his passion for orchids, is putting his newfound knowledge from a recent course into practice.

The orchids are sent up to the castle for display when in flower.

A few tips from the castle garden team:

You can lift and divide your snowdrops to replant. It is always best to plant them in the green.

Cut back overgrown hedges and shrubs before nesting season starts.

Finish any fruit pruning.

Prepare ground for making new lawns in the spring, when it is not too wet.

February is a good month for tree planting.

Order your seeds if you have not already done so.

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

For further information visit our website at

Happy Gardening!