March is upon us and spring is really beginning to get going outside. Through our meadow thousands of bulbs are beginning to emerge and already there are carpets of wild daffodils in flower. Amongst these are dotted Crocus, Galanthus and Leucojum making a welcome show as the days begin to lengthen. This early season display combines quite nicely with our Magnolia cambelii that has just come into flower on the long border.
This is a particularly nice specimen, which could date back to Robinson’s day and is one of the earliest and most beautiful of the magnolias. Its bright pink flowers and big fluffy buds almost seem to glow against a blue spring sky. Because it is so early to flower, a cold wet spring can reduce its beautiful blooms to brown mush. But so far, we have been lucky with mild nights and warm spring days, resulting in what could be one of the best shows I have ever seen the tree put on.
One of the highlights of the month is when our peaches come into blossom. We grow a few outside but our best crop comes from the trees protected under glass in the peach house. Restoring this glass house, back in 2012, was possibly one of the most exiting projects I have been involved with, and after five years’ growth the young trees we planted have developed into handsome, productive plants. We grow them on arches, in the traditional Victorian way. Although this can take a bit of work we feel that there is an important value in keeping this craft alive and the peaches we can produce for Chef are truly sublime!
All winter we have kept the vents open so that the trees are as cool as possible, to encourage them to set fruit bud. But at the end of February as these plump buds begin to swell the glasshouse is shut down and kept warm for the peaches to flower. This is a wonderful crop, with beautiful scented blossom and one of the most delicious fruits in the world. But they are demanding and can be quite a challenge to grow well. One of the many problems in producing a good peach is that they flower so early, before all the pollinating insects are about. Because of this we have to do the work of the bee and hand pollinate. This involves going from flower to flower with a rabbit’s tail on a cane and with one in each hand the four trees can be done quite quickly. This is best done at the warmest part of the day for the best chance of fertilisation. Judging by the amount of blossom we can hope for a good crop this year of this special ingredient for the menu.
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.
Click here to subscribe:http://gravetyemanor.wordpress.com/
At the Manor News
Book on our Spring lunch offer - now extended until the end of May, plus vote for Gravetye in the Sussex Life Food and Drink Awards…
In the Kitchen News
When and how to add seasoning is very important. Head Chef George explains: ‘you can always add a little more salt, but you can never take it away’.