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Hever Castle head gardener Neil Miller shares his jobs for January

By Neil Miller

January is a great time to clean out the greenhouse.

So, turn the radio up, sing loudly and sweep and clean with verve - you may be in the warmest place in the garden but you’ll need to dance to keep your blood pumping!

Make sure you clear the greenhouse of any fungus and moss that may have collected. It’s a good idea to wash down the staging and your trays before the planting season begins.

Neil Miller shares the jobs gardeners need to consider in January
Neil Miller shares the jobs gardeners need to consider in January

January is also a good time to do an audit of your gardening tools - don’t forget the spade with the dodgy handle that you promised back in September you’d fix. With all your tools in order and the greenhouse and potting shed ship-shape, you’ll feel a renewed energy for the year ahead, which is already starting to show promise with crocus and snowdrops poking their heads through the earth.

There’s no sign yet of The Beast From The East (*crosses fingers*) making an unwelcome return, but just incase it wakes us up with a surprise at the end of the month, make sure you have wrapped anything tender (both inside and outside the greenhouse) with horticultural fleece. You can even use your old fleece blankets and I know of a couple of gardeners who still use hessian and re-cycled bubble wrap.

Neil Miller is crossing his fingers the heavy snow seen last year does not return
Neil Miller is crossing his fingers the heavy snow seen last year does not return

I have received a few queries from gardeners and visitors asking whether it’s too late to plant their tulip bulbs. Ours are all in the ground in preparation for our Tulip Celebration in April but, if

you’re quick, and while the ground is still soft enough, there is still time to get your bulbs in. You might even find some bargain

basement ones going cheap in the nurseries!

If you didn’t manage to split and divide your snowdrops last March as they finished flowering, then you can buy them green from the end of the month and plant them in semi-shade where they won’t dry out. I’m so pleased to say that I have managed to amass 80,000 snowdrops at Hever, adding 10,000 a year for the last few years.

These small beauties bring such a lot of pleasure to visitors who are starved of blooms and eager to see life returning to the garden.

Spring blooms will soon be on display at Hever Castle
Spring blooms will soon be on display at Hever Castle

Last February I attended a talk on snowdrops given by the fabulous garden writer Val Bourne at Great Comp Garden near Sevenoaks. I learned a lot from Val about the multitude of different varieties and picked up the best husbandry advice. If you are planting some green for this year, then make sure that the soil is rich with well-rotted compost - or organic matter - and also make sure you plant them as soon as you get them! It’s worth noting that snowdrops are on the CITES list of endangered plants, so ensure that you purchase from stock and not from somewhere that has harvested them in the wild.

This year at Hever Castle and Gardens we are pleased to support the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) on February 12.

I have many horticultural friends who really enjoy the NGS days around the country - there’s nothing better than mooching around gardens that are only open once or twice a year. It’s a special programme and we are happy to be opening for them at the start of an exciting programme of events for the NGS in 2019.

Colour is soon to return to Hever Castle
Colour is soon to return to Hever Castle

If it does snow this month then keep your feet off the grass! Put up a sign saying so too.

One of the worst things you can do to your grass is to walk on it when it’s blanketed in snow. Just wait for the snow to melt. The grass will enjoy the drink as the snow thaws. If you see snow on your hedging though, make sure to gently knock it off - if you need to cross the grass to get to your bushes then you may need to practice levitation!

Happy gardening!

* Enjoy a Snowdrop Walk at Hever Castle from February 9 and please support our NGS day on February 12. All the details can be found at www.hevercastle.co.uk

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