Published: 06:00, 14 January 2021
There doesn’t need to be a lockdown for many of our sites across Kent to close in January.
It’s the perfect time for gardening teams to get stuck in to some of the less picturesque jobs, while visitors stay away. We've got some tips from two of the county's green-fingered experts:
Few of us have acres of perfectly pruned foliage to tend to at home, but we can take inspiration from what the professionals are up to this time of year. At Penshurst Place, head gardener Tony Wiseman and his team are hard at work in the grounds.
He said: “During the winter when the house and gardens are closed to visitors, we try to get as many of the intrusive jobs done as we can so that when the spring arrives, there’s minimal disruption for our visitors.
“At the moment we’re cutting back a few trees that need a good trim; pruning, and clearing the ponds, as well as turning the ground ready for summer bulbs. It’s a period of fairly physical work which, during these cold temperatures, is very welcome!”
The site has 48 acres of grounds, including the 11 acre formal Grade I listed gardens, highlights of which include Diana’s Bath, a pond filled with lilies and steps that descend into the water; the Italian Garden, created by Sir Henry Sidney in the 1560s, the centrepiece of the gardens with an oval lily pool, the Rose Garden and orchard.
If you’d like to get your outside space looking a little like Penshurst, here is Tony’s advice for what to get out and do this month...
“Now is a great time for pruning your climbing roses. You can be quite vigorous with this, but if you’re not sure where to prune to a good rule of thumb is to discard any new growth you don’t want, and prune everything back to just a couple of buds.
“This also applies to wisteria and apple trees which can be pruned around now as well.
“Whilst it’s cool and (somewhat!) dry outside, get outdoors and turn your soil ready for planting. Add mulch if you like but only if you’re not planting brassicas as they don’t like it.”
He also advises to remove leaves collecting on ponds before they settle to the bottom as they can impact on the water quality, and to clean any stonework and paths.
He said: “Plan which bulbs you might like to add to your summer borders and beds, as now is the time to plant them.”
And he added: “Stay off your grass all the time it’s covered in frost, as this can damage it.”
* Penshurst Place is closed for the winter season, but the public footpaths in the parkland, Forge Stores and the Porcupine Pantry Cafe are open (takeaway only). More details at penshurstplace.com
The first lockdown saw three million of us pick up a trowel for the first time - will we be doing it again this time? William Dyson, curator at Great Comp Gardens, near Borough Green, gives his tips for those new to gardening.
“January is a great time to get outside and tidy up your bushes, taking out the dead branches and stems but leaving anything with buds,” he said. “Leave your magnolias, azaleas and spring flowering shrubs because you will be cutting off the blooms that have already formed in their ‘winter coats’.
“Now is a good time to cut back old stems from herbaceous plants and any large grasses that have started to scatter their leaves. We have a lot of wonderful shrubs at Great Comp, many planted by the garden’s original visionary Roderick Cameron in the 1950s, and this month we will be removing old stems from deciduous shrubs. New wood should be retained though.”
William added: “Sadly our Snowdrop Sensation plant fair this year looks like it won’t happen but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be planting more snowdrops than ever this year. It’s best to buy your snowdrops in January and February ‘in the green’, that means buy them in plant form rather than as bulbs.”
* Great Comp is due to reopen on Monday, March 1. Details at greatcompgarden.co.uk