Extra Curricular Gardening

The logo on our new seed collecting bags

The logo on our new seed collecting bags

I’ve been spending a few days away from Chartwell recently, attending some National Trust seminars and events, all designed to help us look after and preserve our plant collection here for now and future generations to enjoy. The latest of these days was spent at Wakehurst Place, the country estate of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, and more importantly in this case, the home of the Millennium Seed Bank. Created with funding to mark the Millennium celebrations, the seed bank works with over 80 other countries to save plants around the globe with a focus on plants most at risk and most useful for the future. So far, the seeds of around 13% of the World’s wild plant species have been saved with a target of 25% for 2020.

Gardeners from key South East National Trust properties being shown around the seed labs at Wakehurst

Gardeners from key South East National Trust properties being shown around the seed labs at Wakehurst

As part of the Milliennium Seed Bank Partnership, the National Trust is working with Kew and Wakehurst to try and help their seed saving process by providing access to the vast collection of plants within the gardens and countryside estates that belong to the Trust. In fact, The National Trust’s portfolio of plants is of immense importance and is one of the most significant collections in the UK. Last year, ten properties within the South East took part in the first year of seed collecting including Nymans, Sissinghurst Castle, Sheffield Park and Scotney Castle. For 2104, five further South East National Trust properties will join the scheme, including, we are very pleased to say, Chartwell.

Wakehurst scientists hard at work

Wakehurst scientists hard at work

This process of seed saving will allow us to make sure the key, important plants here in Churchill’s gardens and estate are preserved via their seeds. Our Cryptomeria japonica, for example, which stands proudly by the Golden Orfe Pond is thought to be the oldest in the country. It was planted by the previous owners of Chartwell, the Colquhoun family, from the first batch of seeds that were introduced into the UK by plant hunter Robert Fortune from Shanghai in 1844, ironically via Kew Gardens.

Planted in 1852, our Cryptomeria japonia (Japanese Cedar) tree is a whopper!

Planted in 1852, our Cryptomeria japonia (Japanese Cedar) tree is a whopper!

The process of saving Chartwell’s seeds will be done over a period of time, depending on when the seeds are ripe and viable. The best time to collect seeds is at their natural time of dispersal. Once collected they must be cleaned and then properly dried before they will be taken to Wakehurst for further drying, analysis, x-raying and then cold storage. Once in storage the life span of them will increase exponentially. For example, for every 1% of moisture content that is removed from a seed, the life span doubles!

This multitude of sieves at Wakehurst is used for grading seeds by size and removing the chaff from them.

This multitude of sieves at Wakehurst is used for grading seeds by size and removing the chaff from them.

Here is one of the many, many seed cold stores.  It is -20 degrees in there so this picture was taken through the glass window!

Here is one of the many, many seed cold stores. It is – 20 degrees in there so this picture was taken through the glass window!

And here is the seed saving kit that we will be using this year at Chartwell

And here is the seed saving kit that we will be using this year at Chartwell

We will keep you abreast of our progress throughout the year as we start to save our seeds and submit them for storage at the Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place. At the top of this blog post I mentioned that I had been to several of these seminars so it seems a little remiss of me if I don’t let you know what the other ones were about too.

The current Chartwell plant quarantine area is kept separate from the rest of the garden/nursery area

The current Chartwell plant quarantine area is kept separate from the rest of the garden/nursery area

A day held at Scotney Castle a couple of weeks ago on Plant Health gave instruction on how best to avoid plant diseases coming into our gardens. It has encouraged us here at Chartwell to try and achieve at least a National Trust Plant Health Bronze Standard award by working hard to improve a few things such as getting assurances from visiting contractors about their boot and tool hygiene and improving our plant quarantine area where we store plants brought in from outside nurseries. We will keep you posted on our progress with these actions in a future blog.

Kalmia latifolia 'Clementine Churchill'

Kalmia latifolia ‘Clementine Churchill’ (as it should look!)

Another day, this time held at Nymans, was led by the National Trust Plant Conservation Centre, who are there to propagate rare and endangered plants to keep the collections in National Trust gardens thriving. As part of this process, we hope for example to get some new Kalmia latifolia ‘Clemtine Churchill’ plants propagated via laboratory micropropagation, as ours are not currently in the best of health. Again, you can read how we get on with this process in another future blog. For now though, come and visit us here at Chartwell soon and see our magnificent plant collection with your own eyes!

Jamie

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Another Brick (Not) In The Wall

Emergency repair work has been carried out to the wall of Lady Churchill's Rose Garden

Emergency repair work has been carried out to the wall of Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden

Recent visitors to Churchill’s gardens may have noticed that all is not well with the walls of our Rose Garden! Earlier this year, a couple of our gardeners here at Chartwell, Ann and Rhiannon, were working on our stunning Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana shrub in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden when all of a sudden part of the wall surrounding the area collapsed! Luckily they were not in danger of being injured but this part of the garden was closed off for a time while we assessed the damage. More recently I was in the area pruning some of the roses when a further section of the wall again fell away. We think that the months of heavy rain that we had last year and this year combined with the heavy winds of the new year storms was probably the cause of the problem but we started to reach out for further advice when more cracks were spotted in the brick work.

Pits dug by archeologists to assess the foundations..

Pits dug by archeologists to assess the foundations..

...did not provide good news!

…did not provide good news!

The couple of excavation pits as seen in the pictures above allowed a local archeology team to determine that the foundations and footings of the walls were not as deep or as substantial as we had hoped. The walls were extensively rebuilt by German POW’s in 1946 under the supervision of Sir Winston Churchill himself from the already existing walls dating from pre-Churchill owners, the Colquhoun family. It is even said that he used to bring the Germans out glasses of whiskey and water while they worked! Whoever was responsible for the section of wall that is currently suffering, they were perhaps not as good at building walls as the great man it seems. Churchill’s own handiwork around the Kitchen Garden is still standing strong yet this is not the first time that repairs have had to be carried out on the walls of the Rose Garden since the National Trust took over at Chartwell in 1966!

An engraved brick on the outside of the Rose Garden wall simply reads: POW WORK GERMAN 1946

An engraved brick on the outside of the Rose Garden wall simply reads:
POW WORK
GERMAN
1946

The most important thing to do next was to make the wall safe and ensure that it didn’t crumble or collapse any further, putting staff, volunteers or visitors in any danger whatsoever. This process was achieved in a couple of ways:

Firstly, the doorway within the offending wall was braced with an inner frame

Firstly, the doorway within the offending wall was braced with an inner frame

Work was completed today by our regular building contractors...

Work was then completed this week by our regular building contractors…

...resulting in a pair of temporary wooden buttress fittings to brace the entire section of wall

…resulting in a pair of temporary wooden buttress fittings to brace the entire section of wall

While we are happy that the area is now safe, obviously the aesthetics of these temporary measures are not what we or our visitors really want to see when walking around the gardens at Chartwell. With this in mind we will be working hard to plan the best way to restore the wall to its former glory as soon as possible. During the residency of the Churchill family, the Rose Garden was simply called the Grey Walled Garden but it was one of Sir Winston’s favourite places to entertain and relax as the following pictures show perfectly…

Here Sir Winston and Lady Churchill can be seen enjoying the sunshine in the corner of the Rose Garden (picture taken from The Sunday Times Magazine - February 7th, 1965)

Here Sir Winston and Lady Churchill can be seen enjoying the sunshine in the corner of the Rose Garden
(picture taken from The Sunday Times Magazine – February 7th, 1965)

And here in his later years Churchill is so relaxed in this part of the garden that he has in fact fallen asleep! (picture again from The Sunday Times Magazine)

And here in his later years Churchill is so relaxed in this part of the garden that he has in fact fallen asleep!
(picture again from The Sunday Times Magazine)

Here, as the Churchill family entertain Albert Einstein, you can see the section of the wall we've been talking about in the background over Sir Winston's shoulder! (picture courtesy of Time Magazine)

Here, as the Churchill family entertain Albert Einstein, you can see the section of the wall we’ve been talking about in the background over Sir Winston’s shoulder!
(picture courtesy of Time Magazine)

Keep reading our Chartwell Garden Blog for more updates on the progress with restoring the Rose Garden wall in future weeks…

Jamie

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Do You Want Chips With That?

Chaos in the compost area!

Chaos in the compost area!

Avid readers of this blog (hi Mum!) may remember some occasions in the past where I’ve talked about our compost area here at Chartwell and the work that goes on there. All the way back in November 2011 for example we showed you how we add spent hops from nearby Westerham Brewery to our compost heaps in order to improve the structure and nutrient levels within our final product. A blog entry from December of last year also came compost flavoured when I tried to talk you through the whole process that goes into to making our Chartwell mix. Well, to continue the theme, we’ve recently been doing some other work in our compost area in the form of some wood chipping which I’ll endeavour tell you about here.

A layer of carbon-rich wood chips is added to Bay No. 1

A layer of carbon-rich wood chips is added to Bay No. 1

A healthy compost heap should contain a decent mix of both nitrogen and carbon, ideally a 50:50 split between the two. The bacteria and micro-organisms that produce the compost function best when this balance of materials is achieved. Too much nitrogen-heavy material will result in a smelly, slimey mess while too much woody carbon material will be slow to decompose. Nitrogen will come from green plant materials such as grass clippings and soft leafy material while the carbon is derived from woody matter such as branches and tough stems. These woody stems can’t be added to the heap as they are though. They have to be chipped in order to help break down the structure and thus allowing for ease of decomposition.

Alastair puts the chipper through its paces!

Alastair puts the chipper through its paces!

Our chipping machine is unfortunately past its best and a little on the temperamental side at the moment so we decided to hire in much tougher, harder-working machine in order to get through all of the woody material we had been stockpiling. Fallen limbs and trees from the Winter storms had meant that we had a record amount of material that needed to be chipped. Being a noisy beast we all made sure we were fully togged up with ear defenders whenever we were in the vicinity and that we were aware of all the safety features and precautions when actually using it.

Excess wood chips were processed straight into the back of our trailer

Excess wood chips were processed straight into the back of our trailer

More wood chips that you can shake a stick at!

More wood chips that you can shake a stick at!

There was too much material from all of these branches just for our compost system so we made use of the chips that were produced in other ways. Some were immediately used to create new paths in the Kitchen Garden that staff and visitors alike can use to get closer to the veg:

Brand spanking new wood chips paths alongside the raspberry and blackcurrant beds

Brand spanking new wood chips paths alongside the raspberry and blackcurrant beds

The rest will be used in areas of the woodland such as the Canadian Camp and also as ground cover in the Cut Flower perennial bed in the Walled Garden. We made sure that no diseased material was chipped during the process so we are quite happy to use our chips wherever they are needed. If you find you have an excess pile of wood chips at home they can also be used as a direct mulch to suppress weeds, retain soil moisture and raise temperature levels below ground. Wood chips are also commonly used in biomass boilers which is something we may look at having here at Chartwell at some point in the future. They can also be added to beer although you should probably use specially treated chips rather than ones from your garden!

The woody material bay in the Chartwell compost area is finally empty!

The woody material bay in the Chartwell compost area is finally empty!

The compost area at Chartwell isn’t accessible to our visitors apart from during some special garden tours from time to time but when you’re next here and you feel the gently crunch of wood chips under your feet, remember that even those were produced here on site by our own fair hands!

Jamie

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How The Mighty Have (Nearly) Fallen

Down but not out

Down but not out

Regular readers with an elephantine memory may remember a post I produced back at the start of January about some of the damage the gardens here at Chartwell had suffered as a result of the Christmas storms. Well, although one of our more treasured trees managed to survive that festive battering, it did unfortunately fall foul of some high winds a little later on in the Winter. The constant heavy rain we’ve experienced over the last 12 months certainly wouldn’t have helped either, but a few weekends ago an ancient Field Maple tree (Acer campestre) in the Parkland on the other side of the lakes sadly lost some major sections.

Our Field Maple in all it's glory last Summer

Our Field Maple in all it’s glory last Summer

Sir Winston Churchill himself would have enjoyed the view of this tree during his tenure at Chartwell. In fact we think that the tree was probably introduced by the previous owner, John Campbell Colquhoun, who was a keen planter of trees as you can read about in this here blog from January 2013. Because of the historic nature of it, we are keen not to lose the tree entirely. With this in mind we have decided to try and preserve the old girl, instead of removing the remaining sections as perhaps we might have done in another instance. Steve, our Estate Supervisor, is particularly fond of it and wants to make sure that our visitors can keep enjoying this Field Maple for years to come.

Our Acer campestre in the Parkland has been fenced off

Our Acer campestre in the Parkland has been fenced off

The Estate team of Steve, Ben and Georgie together with some help from a bunch of hardy volunteers have therefore been spending quite some time erecting a permanent fence around the Acer campestre, constructed themselves out of spare and coppiced timber. The benefits of this are that it keeps our visitors safe from any further falling branches as well as protecting the tree itself from any undue human (or indeed bovine when the field is used to graze cattle) intervention.

Steve, Ben and Georgina, our Estate team here at Chartwell, hard at work building the new fence

Steve, Ben and Georgina, our Estate team here at Chartwell, hard at work building the new fence

Two of our volunteers, Chris and Howard, doing their bit

Two of our volunteers, Chris and Howard, doing their bit

The tree itself doesn’t appear to have split because of any disease that we can see. It seems as though it is simply old age combined with the accumulative effects of the nasty weather that has done for the poor old Maple. It comes to us all I suppose! We plan to plant some young Acer campestre saplings in and around our exisiting specimen so that when it does finally fall there will be a new generation waiting to take its place. In the meantime, the area inside our new fence will be planted up with wildflowers to make a feature of the site that plenty of visitors will walk past on their way up to the woods.

This split in the trunk was observed and noted as part of last year's tree safety surveys

This split in the trunk was observed and noted as part of last year’s tree safety surveys

This picture clearly shows the extent of the rotten trunk

This picture clearly shows the extent of the rotten trunk

The name Acer means “sharp” or “pungent” and campestre means “of fields”. Acer campestre is actually the only native Maple tree in the UK. Also known as the Cat Oak or Dog Oak, the Field Maple can reach up to 90ft in height in an ideal situation. Good for wildlife and easily grown, this vibrant native tree has autumn foliage which turns a beautiful clear yellow, or sometimes flushed with red. A good foraging tree, supporting over 50 species of wildlife, the small flowers are attractive to bees and insects, whilst the seeds are eaten by mammals such as wood mice and bank voles.

This shot of the grand old trunk was taken before the recent damage

This shot of the grand old trunk was taken before the recent damage

In folklore the Field Maple is associated with the heart and love and is said to bring contentment to those with heavy responsibilities. Carrying a child around this tree or passing it through the branches was also believed to bring long life to the youngster. In Alsatian folklore it was said that bringing branches of field maple into the house would protect against bats and keep nesting storks safe from disturbance! Very handy, I’m sure you’ll agree. The wood of the Field Maple is traditionally used to the turning of masers, or mazers, the ceremonial drinking bowls associated with the ritual of wassailing. In fact, Acer campestre is sometimes called the Maser Tree.

This new fence should help preserve the poor old Acer for years to come...

This new fence should help preserve the poor old Acer for years to come…

...and keep our visitors safe from further falling branches

…and keep our visitors safe from further falling branches

In medicine a concoction made from the sap of the Field Maple has been used to treat sore eyes, and the astringent bark used to cure gallstones and high cholesterol. Like all Maples, the sap contains sugar, which can be concentrated into a syrup or used as a sweetener for food. It can also be used to make wine. I’ve not tasted it but if anyone wants to offer me some I’ll certainly give it a go! The wood of the Field Maple is fine-grained but the trees are too small to supply large pieces of timber. It takes a high polish however, so is valued by cabinet makers and wood turners. It has an attractive curving pattern of growth rings and has long been used to make musical instruments, such as violins and cellos. Harps have been made from it since Saxon times and in fact a harp frame made from Field Maple was found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Field maple is efficient as firewood and also makes good charcoal while the roots of the tree are sometimes used to make snuff boxes or pipes.

Jamie

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Featured Plant No. 11 – Primula vulgaris

“And in yon mingled wilderness of flowers,
Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace -
Throws out the snow-drop and the crocus first,
The daisy, primrose, violet darkly blue,
And polyanthus of unnumbered eyes.”

From Late Spring by James Thompson (1700-1748)

As the above poem extract so beautifully hints, a few weeks ago it was the likes of Snowdrops, Crocuses, Hellebores and Winter Aconites that were lifting the spirits of the soggy, wind-swept gardeners here at Chartwell, as a long wet Winter looked like giving way to the first signs of Spring. But now as the March sun finally starts to warm both the garden soil and our pasty skin, it is another of the plants mentioned in Thompson’s poem that I would like to talk about this week: the humble Common Primrose.

A sea of wild primroses on the Orchard banks

A sea of wild primroses on the Orchard banks

Primula vulgaris, or the native Primrose, is familiar to and loved by so many people that perhaps we sometimes overlook it or take it for granted. Every Spring without fail it sprouts and spreads its way around both the beds and wilder areas of Churchill’s gardens, brightening up the day for staff and visitors alike, as it teams up with the Daffodils that emerge at the same time.
Native to western and southern Europe, Primroses thrive in full sun or partial shade such as the edges of a woodland area. A single plant usually only reaches 10cm in height and spread but it’s a case of being small but perfectly formed.

One of the best places to see them at Chartwell is alongside the Butterfly Walk

One of the best places to see them at Chartwell is alongside the Butterfly Walk

The Primrose is a must have for any garden as it well grow happily away in any soil type and any aspect, although it will prefer a sheltered spot if possible. Awarded the RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit) Primula vulgaris are pretty hardy when it comes to pests and diseases but the likes of slugs and grey mould may have a go at them in wet conditions. Wild specimens are a lovely pale yellow although cultivated varieties come in a huge range of colours, and both single and double flowers. Here at Chartwell a few non-yellow plants have crept in, possibly from pollinating bees who have visited nearby domestic gardens. They are now freely crossing with each other here which leads to some interesting colours…

...like this pure white with a cute yellow centre...

…like this pure white with a cute yellow centre…

...these pale pink ones...

…these pale pink ones…

...or these bright pink types which divide the opinions of some!

…or these bright pink types which divide the opinions of some! Pink and red flowered primroses growing in natural conditions in western Europe are usually naturalised from garden escapes, though a pink-flowered form is reported locally as a wild plant in Wales.

They are sweetly scented and are even suitable for cutting and displaying in small vases, as long as you’re not picking from the wild! In more populated areas Primula vulgaris has sometimes suffered from over-collection and theft so that few natural displays of primroses in abundance can now be found. To prevent excessive damage to the species, picking of primroses or the removal of primrose plants from the wild is illegal as stated in The UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 13, part 1b.

Primulas, Daffodils and Celandines begin to carpet the borders at Chartwell

Primulas, Daffodils and Celandines begin to carpet the borders at Chartwell

The name ‘Primrose’ is said to derive from either the old French ‘primerose’ or medieval Latin ‘prima rosa’, both meaning “first rose”, celebrating the fact that it is among the first signs of Spring each year. The common name ‘Primrose’ is sometimes lengthened to ‘Common Primrose’ or ‘English Primrose’ to distinguish it from other Primula species that are also called primroses. The species name ‘vulgaris’ simply means ‘common’.

Primula vulgaris in full effect!

Primula vulgaris in full effect!

An old tradition in England is that a six-petaled Primrose flower is lucky for marriage and love, while in Germany the Primrose is supposed to grow where there is hidden treasure and that it has some power to open locks! Primroses were also very important to farmers long ago. The butter-making season began in May and in order to be sure that the cows would produce lots of milk for butter, primroses were rubbed on their udders on May eve! In other areas primroses were scattered on the thresholds of farm houses before dawn on May day to protect the butter from the fairies. Primroses were also historically associated with hens and the laying of eggs. It was considered unlucky to bring primroses into the house if eggs were being hatched there. Primroses have also long been given as gifts. However it was once considered to be very unlucky to give just a single primrose, whereas a very full bunch would be a protection against evil spirits. In old English folk medicine, rubbing a toothache with a primrose leaf for two minutes was said to give relief from the pain. It was also widely used as a cure for jaundice. Both the flowers and leaves are edible, the flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. Not just a pretty face then!

Pink and yellow Primulas nestling together under a blooming Forsythia

Pink and yellow Primulas nestling together under a blooming Forsythia

So the next time you come to visit us here at Chartwell, spare some time to look down and admire the little and yellow gems that lurk amongst the undergrowth. Let the Primulas brighten your day like they are currently brightening ours…!

Jamie

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The Paths To Enlightenment

Annual rainfall figures at Chartwell 2011 to 2013

Annual rainfall figures at Chartwell 2011 to 2013

It can’t have escaped your knowledge that it’s been a little bit damp in the UK over the last few months! In fact, as this BBC report shows, it has officially been the wettest Winter since records began in 1910 and here at Chartwell the situation has been much the same. If you look at the graph above you will see that last year (2013) the months of February, March, May, August, September, October and December were all wetter than the corresponding months from 2011 or 2012. And January and February of 2014 look to be following a similar trend with over 219mm of rain falling in January (beating even last October’s record 180mm by some margin!) and 145.5mm so far in February with still a few days to go!

The Chartwell garden rain gauge has certainly seen some action recently!

The Chartwell garden rain gauge has certainly seen some action recently!

We record the rainfall levels every day here at Chartwell, along with the maximum and minimum daily temperatures and humidity levels both indoors (in our greenhouses) and outside so that we can see trends like these recent developments forming and hopefully be able to react to them accordingly.

This is our simple measuring equipment and logging system showing just how easy it can be to record weather data for yourself

This is our simple measuring equipment and logging system showing just how easy it can be to record weather data for yourself

I guess one of the plus points about the heavy rain is that at least our water butts are nice and full!

I guess one of the plus points about the heavy rain is that at least our water butts are nice and full!

Readers of last week’s blog will remember how there are plenty of signs of Spring here in Churchill’s gardens, from Snowdrops and Primulas to emerging Peony buds. But what about the wider estate at Chartwell I hear you ask? You might think that with all this rain that the paths would be almost unusable in places. Well, judging by some of the other pathways and tracks I’ve seen elsewhere recently you’d be right in guessing this, but luckily we have pre-empted the weather conditions and had most of our woodland walks scraped back to make them much easier and more pleasant to use.

Both the upper and lower paths have been scraped and cleared

Both the upper and lower paths have been scraped and cleared

A local contractor firm run by Michael Butcher that has links all the way back to Sir Winston Churchill’s occupancy here, spent a couple of days removing the thick mud from our estate paths and exposing the hard surfaces beneath. This means that our visitors can still experience all that the Chartwell estate has to offer without wading through mud and puddles or even worse slipping and sliding about as they make their way around.

These clear pathways mean that everyone can still enjoy the whole of Chartwell's 82 acres...

These clear pathways mean that everyone can still enjoy the whole of Chartwell’s 82 acres…

...including great Wintery views like this

…including great Wintery views like this

If you are unaware of what you can see and do in our woodland, be sure to check out the series of blogs I did on this part of Churchill’s grounds here, here, here and here. In the meantime we look forward to seeing you here at Chartwell, whether it’s in the woods or the gardens, very soon…

Jamie

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Signs Of Life

A Lupin growing wild on the shores of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

A Lupin growing wild on the shores of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that there hasn’t been much activity on here recently. You will have to accept our apologies but I have been on holiday in New Zealand for three weeks where I saw the likes of Lupins, Sweet Peas, Kniphofia, Crocosmia and Agapanthus growing wild by the sides of the roads. In fact the beautiful Agapanthus that we so love over here is considered a weed down under and it is even prohibited to plant it in certain areas! Having been surrounded by so much Summer colour over there it was quite a shock to return to wet and windy England where at first glance everything looks waterlogged and mud-splattered! There are however a few signs of life here in Churchill’s gardens at Chartwell that have been giving us some hope for the much anticipated Spring. It may seem like a long way off at the moment but hopefully the photographs below that were taken this week will inspire you to come along and visit us to lift your soggy spirits…

Our dedicated Winter Border in the Orchard area is probably the best place to start.  You will find it edged with snowdrops and aconites all the way along.

Our dedicated Winter Border in the Orchard area is probably the best place to start. You will find it edged with snowdrops and aconites all the way along.

It is also home to the likes of this Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price'...

It is also home to the likes of this Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’…

...these Helleborous angustifolius from Corsica...

…these Helleborous angustifolius from Corsica…

...and these cheerful Iris danfordiae

…and these cheerful Iris danfordiae

These stunning dinosaur heads belong to our new Cardiocrinum giganteum plants.  You can also find them in the Winter Border and read more about them in a blog we produced last year.

These stunning dinosaur heads belong to our new Cardiocrinum giganteum plants. You can also find them in the Winter Border and read more about them in a blog we produced last year.

At the very top of the Winter Border, near the Pet Graves, you be able to smell the sweet scent of these Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' shrubs before you actually see them...

At the very top of the Winter Border, near the Pet Graves, you’ll be able to smell the sweet scent of these Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ shrubs before you actually see them…

...while the carpet of heathers such as this Erica carnea 'December Red' are also a sight to behold.

…while the carpet of heathers such as this Erica carnea ‘December Red’ are also a sight to behold.

There is plenty to see elsewhere in the gardens too like this double white Camellia near the Mary Cott for instance

There is plenty to see elsewhere in the gardens too like this double white Camellia near the Mary Cott for instance

The rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden may not be ready to eat yet but it still looks beautiful

The rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden may not be ready to eat yet but it still looks beautiful

Most of the daffs are still to come but these early eager beavers along the South-facing wall of the Walled Garden are worth checking out now

Most of the daffs are still to come but these early eager beavers along the South-facing wall of the Walled Garden are worth checking out now

OK, so there's still a long way to go before these Paeonia mlokosewitschii are in bloom but even the sight of the buds emerging is enough to excite us gardeners at the moment!

OK, so there’s still a long way to go before these Paeonia mlokosewitschii are in bloom but even the sight of the buds emerging is enough to excite us gardeners at the moment!

At he front of the house under the Lime trees you'll find examples of our Crocus collection including these yellow ones at one end of the drive...

At the front of the house under the Lime trees you’ll find examples of our Crocus collection including these yellow ones at one end of the drive…

...and these more familiar purple types at the other

…and these more familiar purple types at the other

You'll still be able to spot some Cyclamen hederifolium dotted around the grounds...

You’ll still be able to spot some Cyclamen hederifolium dotted around the grounds…

...while even the wilder areas of the estate have hidden gems such as this little Vinca

…while even the wilder areas of the estate have hidden gems such as this little Vinca

The Spring bedding in our containers are already beginning to put on a show with these pop-pom ornamental daisies the current front runners

The Spring bedding in our containers are already beginning to put on a show with these pop-pom ornamental daisies the current front runners

The often overlooked Mahonia really comes into its own over Winter.  They have cracking early Winter foligae but now it is the turn of the lemon yellow flowers to take centre stage

The often overlooked Mahonia really comes into its own over Winter. They have cracking early Winter foligae but now it is the turn of the lemon yellow flowers to take centre stage

As the frosts haven't hit us too hard here yet this year, half hardy shrubs like this dainty Fuchsia 'Lottie Hobby' are still at their best

As the frosts haven’t hit us too hard here yet this year, half hardy shrubs like this dainty Fuchsia ‘Lottie Hobby’ are still at their best

The Chartwell snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) are also starting to make their annual burst for freedom.  Be sure sure to come back again soon to see them in full flower

The Chartwell snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) are also starting to make their annual burst for freedom. Be sure to come back again soon to see them in full flower

Well, hopefully this small selection of some of our plants that are currently strutting their stuff will help you see that it’s not all doom and gloom in the gardens of Great Britain right now. We hope to see you here at Chartwell soon where you’ll be able to check these out plus plenty more for yourselves. As they say in New Zealand, you’ll have heaps of awesome fun…

Jamie

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