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Spring bulb planting tips for your garden by Hever Castle's Neil Miller

By Neil Miller

Returning from a late summer break to Morocco this week I was greeted with autumn in full swing in the garden. When I left for North Africa the trees weren’t even starting to turn but here we are two weeks later with the parklands ablaze with red, orange and yellow.

And while the rakes are out in force as leaf collecting is one of our largest jobs at the moment at Hever Castle, we also have another epic task ahead of us - to plant 7,000 daffodil bulbs. They are coming from bulb legend John Walkers’ base in Holbeach and once planted we will have 14,000 in total in the grounds.

As you scarify and mulch have a think about the bulbs you’d like to see in March and April. Shopping for bulbs is addictive - the glossy photographs entice you to tick their box and before you know it you’ve ordered 7,000!

Neil in front of the castle that's covered in Boston ivy

I was lucky enough to spend the day with Johnny Walkers in the summer and got to choose the best daffodils from his mail order operation. Johnny is someone who I’ve seen at RHS Chelsea over the years and his displays there are mind-blowing.

Johnny is going for his 25th consecutive gold at Chelsea next year but before that will be at our first ever daffodil event next March - so although it's autumn at Hever we are already saying 'bring on spring'.

If you’re looking for some exciting daffodil varieties to plant now then you could try some from the selection I’ve gone for which include Malvern City, Sealing Wax, Blarney, Fly Half, Golden Joy, Gossamer, High society, Tahiti and Thalia.

Dazzling Daffodils with Johnny Walkers will be launched next March for the first time at Hever

If you’ve only got a small patch or just want to grow in pots then these narcissus are crackers - Winston Churchill, February Gold, Tete-a-Tete, Jetfire, Avalanche or Bridal Crown.

Another job this month is the planting of 6,000 new tulips and hyacinths in the Italian Gardens and around the castle. Admittedly 6,000 is a lot of tulips but these bulbs are well worth the investment. I’ve just bought 400 artichoke style tulips as we’ve heard from other bulb enthusiasts that the firmer lower petals help the flowers to really hold their shape.

I’m always looking for something different for a good pot display and I hope that my selection will encourage gardeners to try something new and embrace the tulip.

Planting up a pot of bulbs for one of the many displays in March that make up Dazzling Daffodils at Hever Castle
Autumn has well and truly arrived

If you’ve only got a small patch at home but you want to grow all the bulbs from crocus through to tulip then you might like to try what I’m calling my 'Tiramisu' method of layering. You can hold the coffee and leave the amaretto until you’ve finished layering your bulbs in the ground though!

Begin by putting the tulips at the bottom, sprinkle some soil over the top, then layer your daffodils next, sprinkle more soil then pop your crocuses in with at least three times their height in soil on top.

I’m often asked about snowdrops and although I’ve ordered my usual 10,000 to add to our current display, I don’t buy them as bulbs, I prefer to plant them green as they come into flower in February.

Hever Castle is in the far west of Kent near Edenbridge. It began as a country house and from 1462 to 1539 was the seat of the Boleyn family.

The results from green are so much better than from bulb - but it’s up to you and if you want to go for bulbs then now is the time to plant.

A final note this month from the garden - our fantastic gardener Josh Fenn was named Young Gardener of the Year 2017 at the South East in Bloom event at the end of September.

We are so proud of Josh and think the award is well deserved. That said, he may have an award but he won't be able to get out of leaf collecting this month!

Neil, left, and Josh Fenn

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