January has to be the bleakest month in the walled garden, the days are short and cold and the garden is asleep for the winter; but it can also be one of the most beautiful. A dusting of snow and a glimpse of sunshine reveals the bare bones of the garden; the lovely elm posts we train our trees to, the geometrical shape of the beds and the sweeping curves of the mounds running the length of the western wall all have their own subtle beauty. Most of our wildlife is asleep too, apart from a few friendly robins following us around as we cultivate the beds, the sparrow hawk waiting for unsuspecting blackbirds, and the skeins of geese honking away overhead, using the tower of the Castle to find their way.
As gardeners we are as busy as ever, winter is the time for all our construction projects, pruning, cultivation and most importantly of all, planning; and we have big plans for 2018! The project has been going for 5 years now and we’re getting closer and closer to fulfilling Arne Maynard’s vision for the walled garden. Over the winter we have installed another 98 elm posts, all cut from trees on the estate and sawn up on site, and over the next few months we are going to plant another 88 apple trees trained as step over cordons, this year we are concentrating on Scottish varieties. When the project is complete we’ll have over 400 step over apple trees bordering the perimeter paths. We already have 250 mature wall trained fruit trees including apricots, plums, gages, pears, peaches and figs. Our wonderful ancient apricot trees are some of the oldest in Scotland and still produce huge quantities of fruit, not to mention lovely fragrant blossom during April and May.
Our landscape gardeners continue tirelessly laying paths and edges brick by brick. When they’ve finished they’ll have put 48,000 handmade bricks in place and several miles of pathways. We don’t use contractors in the garden, everything is built and maintained by our team of 5 gardeners; the espalier posts, the pear tunnels, all the paths and edges, even the benches in the garden are built from scratch by us, all using locally sourced materials.
The biggest project for 2018 is the planting of a new cherry orchard surrounding the curvaceous architectural mounds on the western side of the garden. As with everything we do here this orchard will be on a grand scale, running the full length of the garden (over 150m) and comprising of both summer fruiting and winter flowering cherries. The trees will provide flowers in the winter and spring, shade in the summer and fiery autumn colour, not to mention masses of sweet cherries for our head chef to work his magic on! Who knows, maybe we’ll make a cherry gin to go with our raspberry and plum liqueurs.
Our cut flowers proved hugely popular with local florists in 2017, not to mention our visitors, and so we’re adding many more perennial plants to extend the season and give more variety. Peonies, echinacea, anemones, salvias, agapanthus to name just a few, and we’re going to grow roses for the first time in the walled garden, all highly scented, colourful and great for cutting. We’ll start planting the soft fruit garden in the autumn so that next year you can enjoy strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants, blueberries and gooseberries.
We planted another 12,000 spring bulbs last autumn, and plan to plant even more this year, so it’s well worth paying us a visit during the spring months to see our displays of crocus, wood anemone, narcissus and tulips. We’re always trying to make the Walled Garden as beautiful as it is productive.
There’ll be lots of special events this year. We’re hoping to start ‘Plot to Plate’ evenings giving visitors the chance to learn how we grow all our delicious produce and then enjoy a taste of the walled garden with a specially created menu. We’ll be offering the friends of the Walled Garden behind the scenes tours on summer evenings whilst enjoying a G&T. There will be all the usual events as well; our Birthday Party in June, several outdoor theatre productions and the Garden Market in September. We even have plans to buy an apple press so you can bring in your surplus apples and go home with bottles of fresh juice. Like our Facebook page to be kept up to date with events.
And of course, we will continue to do what we always do; digging, sowing, planting and harvesting! So please do drop in and enjoy the huge variety of fruit, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers we grow and have a stroll around one of the biggest productive walled gardens in the country.