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Christmas at Hever Castle and protecting spring bulbs from the wildlife

In his latest blog for Kentonline, Hever Castle head gardener Neil Miller shares details of his festive to-do list which includes trying to dissuade the squirrels from taking the spring bulbs:

Anyone who plants tulip bulbs in large quantities will tell you - squirrels love them.

And while we love squirrels at Hever, we love our tulips more, so we were keen this year to find the very best ways to deter them from the tulip bed.

Hever is working hard to protect spring's tulip bulbs from the wildlife
Hever is working hard to protect spring's tulip bulbs from the wildlife

Last month I asked readers if they’d be kind enough to send in suggestions for how to keep the squirrels off my bulbs - and they didn’t disappoint, we were flooded with ideas via social media.

The suggestions ranged from; bulbs sprayed with quinine water, washing the bulbs in soap, chicken wire under the soil, cotton wool balls soaked in peppermint essential oil, apple cider

vinegar, chilli pepper flakes, ground black pepper or ground garlic powder.

We have gone ahead and planted a trial bed containing 22 different tulip varieties, planted in colour gradients and in sections divided only by the anti-squirrel treatment the bulbs received when we

popped them in the ground in early November.

And so, now it’s just a waiting game - we think that the soap (Irish Spring Soap) will be the most successful but you never know.

Now that the tulips are in the ground the next job for the gardening team is the unpacking and placing of a whopping 328 Christmas trees around the grounds and offices at the Castle.

Christmas at Hever Castle
Christmas at Hever Castle

Christmas is BIG at the Castle and the garden team enjoy spreading festive cheer at Hever - it’s great to see everyone’s faces as the trees go up.

We’ve got two really large 30 foot trees as well this year which have come all the way down from Scotland.The other 326 trees have been locally sourced from our friends at Hole Park near Benenden.It’s good to support each other and to keep things local when you can.

The trees look wonderful when they’re decorated and it’s fantastic to see the lights twinkling at twilight.

As thoughts turn to Christmas, you might be interested to know that there are many things on a gardeners Christmas list - number one is a mild winter, but if we can’t have that then we are always

keen to receive scarves, gloves and hats!

A mild winter would be on the wish list for head gardener Neil
A mild winter would be on the wish list for head gardener Neil

For the more creative buyer, there are lots of courses that you can book for your gardening friend; the RHS run fantastic courses around the country, and I have enjoyed welcoming the current crop

of students learning in the garden at Hever.

You can also buy vouchers from lots of independent nurseries now in Kent as well as tickets for horticultural talks, or even membership to some of our fabulous Kent gardening societies like the

Hardy Plant Society or Plant Heritage - both groups do an enormous amount to keep rare and unusual cultivars in circulation - without these guys we would have lost lots of fantastic plants not

raised or sold by the large nursery companies.

Do get in touch via social media if you want to learn more about the squirrel deterrent at Hever!

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