13 March 2014 By Sarah Wain
I once knew a bloke called Fred who was a real Hampshire Hog. He used to watch the weather like a hawk and after the winter solstice would comment in his Hampshire burr that days were getting longer.
This is a truism of course, but nevertheless a reminder to keep an eye on the harbingers of change in the garden - the lengthening day and the appearance of the first flowers. A garden is always changing - not that we can appreciate it necessarily but I love the experience of seeing the first snowdrops appear and the first crocus, their appearance really does indicate that spring is around the corner.
More and more bulbs are planted each year in the grass at West Dean Gardens to lengthen the annual floral displays which we hope will create a beautiful garden and in turn will entice more visitors to pay us a visit. It is an absolutely thrilling experience to watch these bulbs expand in numbers naturally. One crocus in particular C. thomasineanus, seeds itself about with profligate abandon creating ever increasing waves of mauve-blue all by itself. It is particularly spectacular in the walled fruit garden where the sheltered conditions are very much to its liking and it's an absolute must- see in February.
And hark what clarion call is that I hear - only thousands of daffodils trumpeting their arrival in March? Over the years we have planted thousands of: February Gold, Jenny, Jack Snipe, Thalia, Ice Wings, Hawara, Narcissus pseudo narcissus and N poeticus which comes later. West Dean is awash with delicious shades of yellow in March and along with other blossomy plants in the borders, birds singing in the trees and lambs in the park in front of West Dean house frolicking in ways that only lambs know how to - you know that you are really in the swing of spring in March.
We plant new bulbs in autumn each year; it's a three-man event: one on crowbar (carefully creating natural looking drifts at the same time), one on bulbs and one closing the hole. In 2013 we planted 76,000 in this way throughout the gardens enhancing existing collections and making new displays and now is the time to see what an effect they have.
You can enjoy all of this yourself by coming along to West Dean as a garden visitor on March 30th Mothering Sunday when the entrance fee will be half price for adults and children go free and I can guarantee a cheerful trumpet waving display for you all to enjoy a smashing afternoon tea and lots more besides.
For more details on West Dean's Events click here