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Gravetye Manor

Vowels Lane
West Hoathly
RH19 4LJ
Tel: +44 (0) 1342 810567
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In the Garden News

One of the first jobs for the New Year is to start our sweet pea seeds in the glass house.  In past years I have always done our first sowing in early November but since we have been having such mild autumns the plants were becoming quite leggy.  Sweet peas need to be grown as ‘hard’ as possible and by delaying our sowings till now has resulted in some much better quality plants for spring planting.  
This is a seed, which I have struggled with in the past; getting quite erratic germination until my friend Aaron showed me his secrets.  He takes care of the kitchen garden at Great Dixter, and over the years has perfected his sweet pea growing into an art.  He always uses a long pot to give the plant a good root run and fills it two thirds full with multi-purpose compost, which he waters in thoroughly. Once this has drained, he puts one seed in the center of each pot which is then filled to the top with more compost but not watered. Getting the moisture right for the seed is what is important and the pots must not be watered again until germination. We keep ours in a heated green house covered in newspaper to stop them drying out and since Aaron has taught me his method I have been getting 100% germination within a week or two.  
Once these plants are in good growth they can be moved out to the cold frame to be hardened off in time for a spring planting. It is very important not to get over excited and put the plants out on the first warm day. A cold snap can really set them back and it is best to wait until a warm patch in April, until they can go in the open ground.  
I have selected a collection of exhibition sweet peas for this year, which have long stems and extra big flowers. We want to produce the best possible blooms for our florists’ and to do this we will grow the plants as cordons. Constructing a long A frame of bamboo canes, each one 18 inches apart, and training the plants up them to do this. Each week through the summer we remove the side shoots and tendrils and tie the plants in. Although this results in less flowers the blooms that are produced are much bigger on long stems and the exceptional quality is worth the work.  
Summer can seem so far away on an icy January morning, but by sowing some sweet pea seeds it some how seem a little closer...

You can read Tom's latest article in Country Life 'Sea kale reaps all kinds of rewards' on our Press Page.

Gravetye Garden Blog

For all those eager to read more regular updates from the garden, then we have good news. Our head gardener Tom and his team are delighted to launch the Gravetye Garden Blog. Packed full of pictures and information on their work at Gravetye - look out for our plant of the week, as well as posts from exciting contributors.

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At the Manor News

A trip to the opera: if you’ve not planned a visit to Glyndebourne this summer then we recommend you do – plus we share some of our upcoming events…

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In the Kitchen News

This month, Head Chef George invites you to experience the very best the restaurant has to offer with his Tasting Menu…

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