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How to grow and care for hydrangeas and seed collecting at Hever Castle in the autumn

Autumn colour can surprise you and can even come in the form of azure blues, rusty pinks and clean whites, if you grow hydrangeas.

These fantastic plants, heralding originally from Japan, produce large heads of flowers from early summer to late autumn as long as the conditions are right! The clue in how to look after these beautiful blooms lies in their very name ‘hydrangea’ which comes from the Greek word ‘hydra’ for water.

Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas

These beautiful shrubs can be planted out in the garden in autumn or spring. They enjoy light shade rather than full sun and if you want to grow blue hydrangeas then they prefer a clay soil or acid conditions as it’s higher in aluminium, the element needed for the blue colouring. Pink hydrangeas enjoy an alkaline soil.

There are many different varieties - some can grow to the size of a small tree, so it’s worth reading up about your favoured hydrangeas first (the RHS.org.uk is an invaluable source of information as ever).

Plant the hydrangea according to the growth instructions - if it says it could grow to four feet, then makes sure you give it that space. Make sure you water the plant well and mulch it to preserve the moisture in the soil.

The shapes of the large blooms (which are made up of clusters of smaller flowers) can come in either a lace cap shape or round head. If you want a spherical head on your bush then go for the Hydrange microphylla (hortensia) but if you are after a lace cap variety then select Hydrangea serrate or villosa.

Hydrangeas at Hever give the gardens at splash of colour
Hydrangeas at Hever give the gardens at splash of colour

The hydrangea was first brought to our shores in the mid 18th century from a north american variety. It is said that the different colours of this shrub’s flower have different meanings attached to them - pink is for love, white for purity, purple for wealth and abundance and blue for rejection (these were sometimes given to a suitor to gently let them down!) To me though, they mean fantastic colour from summer through to late autumn - followed by majestic architectural seed heads which catch the frost in the winter and provide food for house finches, goldfinches and other small birds when things are scarce come December.

Hever Castle will be showing visitors how to collect seeds this autumn (19114078)
Hever Castle will be showing visitors how to collect seeds this autumn (19114078)

Seed collecting at Hever this autumn

This autumn, the gardening team at Hever Castle will be helping visitors, of all ages, to learn how to salvage, dry and store seeds, passing on the essential skill of seed collecting - an art-form that’s seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

We are always keen to leave the colour in the garden for as long as possible and ‘Faith’s Garden’ on Diana’s Walk is a treasure trove for seeds.

The team have enjoyed taking visitors on a seed tour through the winding pathways this month (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) pointing out the plants that are ripe for seed harvesting.

This area of the garden is ablaze with autumnal colour thanks to the grasses, echinacea, rudbekia and assorted asters.

Autumn at Hever Castle
Autumn at Hever Castle

We have been encouraging our younger visitors to take up the Leaf and Seed Collection Challenge with different seeds and leaves to be collected on Anne Boleyn’s Walk and Lake Walk.

For further details please visit www.hevercastle.co.uk


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