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Hever Castle head gardener Neil Miller talks autumn colour and bulbs

By Neil Miller

Following the long hazy days of summer the trees have started to turn at Hever and the grounds are looking spectacular thanks to the gardeners devotion to leaf collecting.

I have to say that collecting spent leaves doesn’t rank among my favourite jobs!

However, some people love to get the blower out and have a good clean-up, I know a few gardeners who find it therapeutic.

Much care is taken to collect the leaves at Hever
Much care is taken to collect the leaves at Hever

I hope you have been circling some fantastic bulbs in your catalogues - there are some wonderful and unusual daffs out there these days.

I’m ordering in the bulbs, in large quantities at the moment, planning ahead for daffodils next March and tulips in April.

I’ll also being using some of these bulbs as part of a winter tub tutorial in October.

Autumn colour appearing at Hever (4474385)
Autumn colour appearing at Hever (4474385)

Winter baskets or tubs are great for providing colour through the long dark months ahead.

If you pop some bulbs into the base of your tub, they will act as your spring alarm clock and wake you from your winter hibernation with a blast of colour come March.

If you have time and want to pop along to one of my workshops in October, I’ll be passing on my ‘lasagne’ technique of layering bulbs to provide colour from February through to April. I’ll also be giving tips on the best bulbs to buy this autumn and will have a good stock provided by Johnny Walkers of Taylors Bulbs.

Despite the autumnal feel thoughts are already turning to spring bulbs
Despite the autumnal feel thoughts are already turning to spring bulbs

Johnny is a bit of a star in the bulb world - this year he was awarded his 25th consecutive gold medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

You could say he knows his onions/bulbs!

Johnny helped us orchestrate our first ever Dazzling Daffodil event earlier this year and it was truly inspirational to work with him. I only hope I can pass on some of his knowledge this Autumn at our tutorials - and we will have a scintillating selection of bulbs selected by Johnny for visitors to buy.

I’ve had the cheque book out and must admit to going a little bit mad buying daffodils this year! I also listened to Johnny and have gone for one of his personal favourites called ‘Georgie Boy’.

This variety was launched in 2014 to mark the birth of Prince George and was also short-listed at Chelsea for plant of the year. Flowering time is early and the plant will promise growth of about 40cm on a good strong stem.

Join tutorials and purchase bulbs from Hever this autumn
Join tutorials and purchase bulbs from Hever this autumn

I have gone for ‘Sealing Wax’ again this year as well as ‘Tahiti’ - both performed well in March. I have also selected a pricier bulb with ‘Gossamer’ and ‘Golden Joy’ and I’m excited to see how they perform. For the pots I’ve gone for ‘Tete a Tete’ (a firm favourite for many) as well as the more exotic ‘High Note’ and ‘February Gold’. My full list can be found at the bottom of this page!

Don’t forget to do a bit of ‘tree-spotting’ when you’re out and about this month, to my mind, it’s better than trainspotting!

Embark on some tree spotting says Neil Miller
Embark on some tree spotting says Neil Miller

Look out for Populus Deltoid (Poplar) – this tree used to be used for the manufacture of match sticks. Pinis Nigra ( or the Corsican pine) looks fantastic with its twisted needles which resemble bottle brushes. If you’re in a dry spot and looking for a good drought tolerant tree then the Corsican pine is a good option.

I like to seek out the Taxodium (Swamp cypress) at this time of the year - we have quite a few down on Lake Walk, they produce fantastic aerial roots along the ground. London Plane Trees, oaks, the Ironwood

trees, liquidambar, larch and the cherry look fantastic at this time of year as they blaze away saying good bye to 2018.

Daffodils at Hever Castle: Tahiti
Daffodils at Hever Castle: Tahiti

Top bulb choices for 2019:
















Neil Miller with the daffodils at Hever Castle (4475000)
Neil Miller with the daffodils at Hever Castle (4475000)

Shorter varieties for pots:











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