Spring shoots at Emmetts

PUBLISHED: 18:13 06 February 2014 | UPDATED: 18:14 06 February 2014

Tulips at Emmetts Garden

Tulips at Emmetts Garden

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Late-winter garden tips from the head gardener at this National Trust property

While the cold winds 
of winter remain very much in evidence, the first bursts of spring are slowly starting 
to appear. National Trust gardens and countryside areas across Kent are starting to return to life, and many of these have remained open to visitors all year round.

Now that spring is around the corner, gardens that have been shut for the winter are preparing to re-open, ready for visitors to come and admire the work that has been carried out over the winter months.

One person who has been particularly busy this month is head gardener at Emmetts Garden, Simon Walker. He 
has headed up the gardening team at the Westerham garden for the past two years, having previously worked at Chartwell.

Simon gives us his highlights and tips 
for a colourful spring garden.

Enchanting Emmetts

The hilltop garden has year-round interest for visitors, with spring being a particularly enchanting season. The gardens are thickly carpeted with crocus and snowdrop displays, early colour appears in the alpine rock garden and the first green, swelling buds are seen on the rhododendrons.

Keen-eyed visitors might also spot the odd squirrel or robin looking for food.

Emmetts was established as a plantsman’s paradise, inspired by William Robinson and laid out as a family garden in the 19th century. It contains many exotic trees and shrubs from around the world.

The gardens offer an alpine rock garden, rose garden, great views and the famous shows of spring colour in the flower beds. Simon has a particular fondness for the garden at this time of year. “My favourite aspect is the harshness,” he explains.

“It’s a sharp reminder of the power of the natural world and how it adapts to the time of year. The winter light is breathtaking too, especially in the early morning.

“Most of all, though, I love to see the first shoots of new life emerging once more.”

February jobs

Simon’s late-winter garden duties and recommended jobs for keen gardeners include routine maintenance, such as checking mowers, restoring paths and pruning back any winter damage.

He and his team will also clear away any weeds that have braved the winter cold, while also preparing the garden for spring growth with a spot of late mulching.

“Good mulching protects root bases in the soil as it provides cover and heat as the organic matter breaks down,” says Simon.

“Covering plants with fleece will further protect the tops of any tender shrubs that are already sprouting, but avoid using plastic as this will not allow the plants 
to breathe properly.”

Asked what other jobs we could all 
be doing in February to get the best 
out of our own gardens and allotments, Simon advises: “February is a time 
to check your roses, ready for their secondary prune ahead of the new bud burst in March or April.

“Mature Buddleias will also benefit 
from a hard prune round about now 
for the same reason. Any pots still 
left outdoors should be brought inside 
or moved out of windy spots.

“Don’t forget to wrap up warm while out in the garden and have plenty of hot coffee or tea on standby for when you’re done.”

Feed the birds

Finally, Simon is keen that the animals, insects and birds are remembered this winter. He urges everyone to leave food and water out for the birds and to spare 
a thought for the creatures trying to survive in the harder winter conditions.

“Leave a good patch of rough ground, preferably backing onto a boundary,” he advises. “This will supply a wildlife corridor for wee beasties to move around 
in; have plenty of logs piles for shelter 
and brambles too. This is something we take great care to provide at Emmetts Garden, along with a well-stocked bird table and plenty of water.”

Sounds like humans are not the only visitors Simon and his team are 
preparing to welcome this spring n

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