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Detox your garden in 2018: Neil Miller, head gardener at Hever Castle, Kent

By Neil Miller

How is your Dry January or New Year’s detox going? If you want to detox but you still need your chocolate and prosecco fix then why not focus your gaze outdoors and resolve to detox your garden instead?

January is the perfect time for re-evaluating what’s gone before and cutting back or rearranging what didn’t work last year. If it’s mild enough to do so, then take your coffee outside, sit on the bench and go through your phone looking at photographs of your garden last year.

Crocuses at Hever
Crocuses at Hever

Scroll back to February and decide whether your snowdrops and crocuses looked good where they were, or whether you’d like to supplement them with some new plants - I always buy green rather than planting bulbs when it comes to snowdrops.

Scroll forward to May, what areas of the plot worked well? Is there room to supplement the rose bed with new species?

Now is a fantastic time to plant 'bare root’' (dormant) plants such as roses - they’re also much cheaper to buy at this time of the year. Bare root roses will establish quickly and will flower in their first year.

The castle on a frosty January morning
The castle on a frosty January morning

Rose of the Year 2018

I’m mad about the passionate red rose ‘Love Struck’ at the moment. This cherry red floribunda was named Rose of the Year 2018 at RHS Hampton Court last summer. Love Struck is lightly scented, presents with double-petalled blooms and has a dark-green glossy foliage making it an absolute corker!

I’ve just planted 300 in the Italian Garden at Hever. It’s a prolific flowering rose and has trialled well around the country so I’m looking forward to seeing how they perform in June.

If you’re after a lovely pink variety then you can’t go wrong with David Austin’s ‘Anne Boleyn’ - we have hundreds planted beside Half Moon Pond and this year the display was stunning.

The Anne Boleyn Rose
The Anne Boleyn Rose

How to go about planting

Plant your bare root roses in a well-drained soil with plenty of compost and add in a handful of bone-meal or fertiliser. Hold off from planting if your ground is waterlogged though, as roses hate sodden ground.

If you’re planning a hedge for your garden then January and February - the dormant months - are by far the best time to plant. Yew hedges look fantastic and yew can be bought in bulk as bare root plants.

Bare root plants come to the consumer having been dug up by the nursery and despatched without soil making them more cost effective to buy in bulk than container plants later in the year.

Camellias at the castle's Italian Gardens
Camellias at the castle's Italian Gardens

Peruse your perennials

If you’re still sitting on the bench and your trousers haven’t frozen stiff then continue to scroll through your phone and take a look at the perennials in June, July and August.

Are you happy with their placement? With the plants in their dormant state, now is the perfect time to cut back and move perennials that didn’t work in their space last year. Were your agapanthus towering in front of your achillea? If so, gently swap them around.

All this sitting around and planning is great but if you need to move about in the garden and generate a sweat then you can continue to leaf collect or you could attempt to shred your Christmas tree! We shredded most of our 300 Christmas trees this month.

There's 700 years of history and award-winning gardens at the romantic double-moated 13th century castle, near Tonbridge
There's 700 years of history and award-winning gardens at the romantic double-moated 13th century castle, near Tonbridge

You can still shred yours without an industrial machine though - just put the smaller branches through a little chipper and dispose of the trunk. The smaller branches produce a fantastic mulch.

Other jobs to keep you busy in January include marvelling at your camellias and filling up the bird feeders. And that is all! It's good to plan and to make new year's resolutions for the garden but we don't want to go too mad yet do we?

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

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