Martin Duncan - Arundel Castle Head Gardener

THE castle gardens are bursting into life, with an endless array of colour and texture throughout. Our lupins are at their best, standing tall in amongst our herbaceous border plants.

One of my personal favourites is the ‘Russell’ lupin, a hybrid with its deep purple and yellow flowers. The ‘Persian Slipper ‘has an electric blue tint in the sunlight and looks stunning on its own, yellow lupins are the oldest variety. During the 20th Century more and more cultivation took place and so we now have an endless choice of colour combinations for lupins these days, all of which make any garden attractive.

Lupins (Lupinus L.) are members of the legume family (subfamily Papilioniodeae) containing both herbaceous annual and shrubby tree like perennial with attractive long racemes of flowers.

Doing some research on Lupins, I discovered that they were popular with the Romans and were cultivated throughout the Roman Empire, mainly in the Southern Mediterranean countries.

The seeds were taken to northern Europe by Frederick the Great of Prussia in 1781 to improve the poor soils of northern Germany.

By the 1860s the ‘garden yellow lupin’ was widespread across the acid sandy soils of the Baltic coastal plain.

Lupines’ can be traced as a food source for more than 2000 years; through archaeology we know they were eaten by the Egyptians. The Romans grew them for their ability to help fertilise the soil.

Today Lupin Beans are produced throughout Europe, especially in Italy and Portugal when the skin is removed and placed with brine in put pickle jars.

The Lupini Beans can be eaten fresh by making a small tear in the skin with your teeth and “popping” the seed directly into one’s mouth, but can also be eaten with the skin on.

Accomplished lupini eaters learn to fissure the skin by rubbing the bean between forefinger and thumb. Luckily one of our Italian castle guides brought some back for me from Italy and I loved them chopped up in a salad.

In our organic kitchen garden you will find a glorious selection of vegetables such as our red stemmed Chard, can also look good planted in a flower bed amongst other plants. The lettuces are being picked daily and our asparagus is regularly going up to the castle kitchens.

Our strawberries are coming along well and with our companion planting there are lots of flowers out attracting the bees and beneficial insects. The white alliums are a particular favorite with the bumble bees.

A few tips from the castle garden team:

Lupins Tips: Constantly remove flowers beginning to go to seed, this will ensure continuous flowering for a much longer period.

They are very susceptible to slug damage, you can use organic slug pellets or place raw seaweed lightly scattered around the plants, slugs hate salt.

Plant out summer bedding plants.

Prune spring flowering shrubs immediately after they have flowered.

Happy Gardening!

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