January in the Palace Gardens

1st - 31st January

Head Gardener James Cross updates us on the Palace Gardens in January, and those all-important winter garden jobs!

‘Winter has become a mild, short lived season which has generally made being a gardener considerably more pleasant! The winter months can be hard work so a little more sun and considerably milder temperatures make it far more bearable. It feels and sounds like spring straight after Christmas and the only thing missing is the daylight! Snowdrops and crocus will carpet the arboretum by the end of the month and early daffodils are already opening on the moat banks.

The ground is rather wet now, although it should not prevent us from clearing the borders and pruning the roses. There is a risk that we will have to prune them again if it stays mild and they are then frost damaged, but we have got away with it so far! Hedges can be cut during this mild weather, as can lawns, especially if they have leaves on them. A drawback of the milder winters is that our window for work is getting smaller as bulbs and fresh growth emerge as quickly as we clear and prune last year’s growth.

The winter border is looking great with witch hazels, mahonias, Sarcococca and dogwoods all looking more and more striking in the winter light.  I particularly enjoy the views that open up during the winter, showing the structure and bare bones of the garden.  I also enjoy the fact that once a border is cleared it stays tidy until the first weeds try to take hold in April!

January is also a great time to create and dig new borders, tasks we will be undertaking very soon under the evergreen oak. We will aerate the soil beneath the tree and add compost to it rather than disturb the roots. We are going to create a contemporary stumpery and fernery with a strong link to the Victorian stumperies first created in the 1870s. We will incorporate a small path through it and some include some sculpture too, I hope. The planting will be dense with swathes of several plants running throughout, I hope reflecting the success of the contemporary Jocelin border in front of the apple store. This will extend the life of the oak tree and the compaction will be eliminated. I hope it will complete this area and create more interest and diversity within the East Gardens.

Phelps Garden

We look forward to welcoming you to the The Bishop’s Palace Gardens this January - if you do visit, you will enjoy early spring flowers and colour, hedges, topiary and the structure of the garden as well as the stunning palace and fortifications. You should also catch a glimpse of our resident kingfishers and possibly the otter, which has made the moat one of its regular stops!’

Otter on the moat