‘I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden!’ – Ruth Stout

Snowdrops under foot, hidden under trees; crocuses emerging as buds of green appear, surely spring is on the way.

At last winter tidying is complete not least the mammoth task of pruning tree and bush.

Thoughts turn now to growth. Harbingers of spring apricot blossom and winter flowering cherry have burst into delicate bloom.

Beneath them crocuses cautiously pop colourful heads and strong green leaves of daffodil and tulip herald a riot of colourful spring flowers to come.

The plaintiff cry of returning oyster catchers echoes round the walls, often heard but seldom seen they create ‘surrounding sound’ as if to spur leaf and flower into growth.

The gardeners are hard at work in the important job of mulching, feeding the soil which in turn will feed others in the months to come. The mulch is of horse manure, preferred due to its fine texture and nutrient content.

Sown seeds germinate in the small cosy greenhouse, each morning Head Gardener Ed finds more green shoots appearing. A time of new beginnings with flower seedlings such as Gordon Castle sweet peas, ammi, calendula and clarkia growing along side vegetables like broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbage. Over two hundred and seventy varieties of seeds will be sown, each tiny plant different in shape colour and speed of growth.

The greenhouses spruce and clean are filling up with seedlings because as yet it is too cold to plant out into the soil.

John Hancox, a specialist in Scottish Heritage Fruit trees, visited the garden last year and as a result supplied fourteen new varieties of apple tree which Ed has been heeling in till the planting areas are ready for them. Eight varieties will grow as standard trees in the area behind the café.

The remaining six will complete the step over beds which Davy is building on the West side of the garden.

The step over trees are grown from a grafted whip, planted then pruned to the height of the step over rail. This is to encourage the growth of two shoots at the tip which will be trained along the rail to the right and left of the main stem probably in mid to late summer. It is with great interest we will chart their growth over the next months.

Step over apple trees can be very productive, with records of up to 30 apples from one tree. Ed noted that St Edmund’s pippin is one such variety. It will take two years for all the trees to become established and start to bear fruit. Thus taking the number of apple varieties growing in Gordon Castle Walled Garden to eighty six! Each different and each with a story to tell.

Work is coming on apace outside the castle, where a huge herbaceous border is taking shape. It has been designed by Head Gardener Ed’s wife Anna who is also a horticulturalist. The border over fifty metres long lies on each side of the Orangery promising a colourful display featuring delphiniums, geraniums, phlox, climbing roses such as Bathsheba with topiary spheres to add interest and structure. The Gordon Castle Highland Games on 21st May will be an ideal time to see this colourful new addition to the Castle garden.

As the approaching spring gathers momentum, much is happening and is about to happen.  It is an exciting time in The Walled Garden, more green shoots, bud and flower with each passing day. More news at the start of April!

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden.

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