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Hever Castle gardening column with Neil Miller

By Neil Miller

What a month we’ve had at Hever - the gardens have been awash with gold and we’ve even had the fabled Gardeners’ World in the grounds.

The outer moat, looking down to the Monet bridge is awash with golds of every hue (image) and tulips have begun to burst forth in front of the maze. I'm not getting carried away though - National No Vest Day is a way off yet!!

For a while though, the weather had us worried. The snow came down hard upon the heads of the daffodils in Anne Boleyn’s Orchard and then the frost came heavy, but the golden wonders recovered their bowed heads. With a little help from the sun they came out to party in time for our Dazzling Daffodil event which saw visitors allowed in the orchard for the first time.

Hever's Monet bridge is awash with golds of every hue
Explore Hever in the sun this week

We cut a winding path with the mower through the field of daffodils to allow close inspection of the varieties. With the help of wonderful daffodil expert Johnny Walkers, visitors were able to get a close look at some really rare and spectacular daffodils including Narcissi Telamonius Plenus, or the ‘double daffodil’ dates from 1620 and has rarely been seen growing in the wild in the UK this century.

We had the estimable gardener Nick Bailey on site two weeks ago filming a piece to camera for Gardeners’ World. The weather wasn’t kind and the sound man got drenched but something I’ve learned again this month is that daffodils look good whatever the weather!

The tulips won’t be outdone by the daffodils this year and a quick inspection of Pergola Walk and the Pompeian Wall suggests that the displays later this month will be theatrical and full-on! The late arrival of spring should mean that the tulips will come forward together in full force and pack a punch.

Tulips have started springing up in the gardens
Gardeners' World filming in Anne Boleyn's Orchard at Hever Castle

This year I selected a variety of tulips which can easily be sourced via a good bulb catalogue. I’ve gone for some showy varieties such as ‘Ice Cream’ for the pots in the courtyard and planted 3,500 orange ‘Ad Rem’ tulips around the castle walls. Orange works really well against the stone and when the sun comes out the glow of red reflects beautifully in the greeny-blue of the moat.

Speaking to our resident historian Alison, and looking through the gardening history books, we know that the tulip was officially introduced into the Tudor gardens of England in 1578. John Gerard’s Herballor General Historie of Plantes, a book detailing plants of tudor times, actually lists the plants in his own garden as including 30 different species of tulip.

As ‘Tulipmania’ swept trough the Netherlands in the 17th century its effect was felt in England as tulips became a feature of the plant collector’s garden. Tulips of all colours were introduced across the centuries and we are now in the position to be able to plant huge block colours or to go mad and plant a kaleidoscope of colours interspersed with other spring bulbs, if we so choose

Spring is well and truly in the air this week
This year's tulips are a kaleidoscope of colour

We hope that our Tulip Celebration this year will thank these early pioneer gardeners - without whom our gardens in the UK would be far less colourful in springtime!

We also hope that we’ve seen the end of the snow... the forecasters seem to think there will be a heatwave this week instead!

More details on Hever Castle at www.hevercastle.co.uk

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