Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Help - Everything's Flowering Like Mad - 21st May

Welcome to Picton Castle’s stunning woodland and Walled garden, in late May. Here are the main highlights for the next couple of weeks.
Peep-In Walk - This pretty wood still had loads of Rhododendrons in flower, and more besides.
The first thing that will strike you is the fabulous Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum. Look beyond it and see a haze of deep pink wending its way along the path ahead, trickling to the right and pooling in a dip by the trees. They’re head gardener Roddy Milne’s favourite primula – the Primula Pulverenta. They’re stunning en masse in the sunshine here, but are equally enticing among the ferns by the start of Peach House Wood and scattered in the walled garden.
Follow the Primula Pulverenta trail until you reach a crossroads in the path, with a ‘Winter’s Bark / Drimys Wintei on the corner. Turn left for a stroll through woodland rich in rhododendrons and azaleas.
Look out for pretty plates of white blossom on a Viburnum on the left, shortly before there’s a path to the left. Turn here and you’ll miss the best of the Rhododendrons further along the path you’re already on. But there is a lovely tree fern glade, with plants more than 30 years old, nestling in that small dip.
Decisions, decisions. Is it helpful to point out that the tree ferns will be there nearly all year but the Rhodies are coming to the end of their season?
Carrying on straight, there are Rhododendrons along the path and back among the trees, with clusters of elegant arum lilies in the middle ground. Enticing wafts of fragrance will dance along the path – do make a point of smelling the Rhodie flowers. Some are very boring but those that are fragrant are utterly wonderful.
The next turning to the left is marked with four or five Rhododendrons with delicate pink and white flowers. Now you have another decision to make. You could turn left to wander through the myrtle avenue, or you could carry on to see more Rhododendron colour and a huge array of woodland plants. Why don’t you come back for the myrtles – this Chilean variety isn't in flower yet anyway!
Carrying on straight instead of turning takes you to our Fallen Woman. Face her and look right to see the Rh Jock Hybrid still in flower, surrounded by other late Rhodendrons.
At the Fallen Woman, turn left onto a path lined with woodland plants. Among them, you’ll find clumps of Libertia procera, their profuse 3 petalled white flowers hovering above evergreen foliage.
There’s hellibores, euphorbia, Boykinia and Trilliun sessile, to name but a few. As you approach the Front Drive, look beyond a patch of Libertia procera to see the glossy green euphorbia bushes behind – step up and smell them – the honey fragrance is delicious!

The South Gardens and Walled Garden
Return to the courtyard and go straight on, following the sign to the Walled Gardens. There’s a stunning red Rhododendron by the courtyard wall. Walk past it, then go off the path to the left to stand on the old tennis lawn and admire ‘Old Port’ in flower – we think it’s the biggest rhododendron in the world. Planted in around 1860, it’s around 20 feet high and 75 feet wide.
Return to the path. The maze is coming into leaf and becoming more difficult to work out – venture in if you will.
Big banana leaves are beginning to unfurl in the jungle garden. Beyond it, there’s an adventure playground to stop in for a while if you have children with you.
Carry on into the walled garden, where the current stars of the show are the echium pininiana’s flower spikes rising above the border to the back of the garden on the right. Perhaps approach them by following the path between herb garden and wall. You’ll brush past a prettily variegated Actinidia Kilomikta pinned to the wall, and a delicate Polygola x Jalanioan shortly after that in the border. Wander back through the walled garden and you’ll find a large variety of aquilegia, irises, aliums and cistus.
When you leave the walled garden, turn right to go to the start of Peach House Wood. Look right to see Embothriums ablaze just outside the south wall. At the start of the wood are paths lined with more than 60 varieties of ferns, many stretching tentative tendrils towards the sky after their winter hibernation. They will become increasingly luxuriant as we approach summer – if you skipped the tree fern glade in Peep-In Walk earlier, perhaps you should make a mental note to return and do a ‘fern day’, taking in the tree fern glade, woodland fern path and, of course, the less hardy ferns in the Fernery off the walled garden.
Depending on how much time you have, you can either take a walk through Peach House Wood, spliced by a gunnera-filled gulley, with Rhododendrons scattered on the slopes around it, or head back to the courtyard by leaving the path and striking out towards the castle, going through an eclectic mix of flowering trees and shrubs, with wild flowers in the grass.
So much to see – it’s difficult to do it all in just one visit.
We hope you enjoyed this visit and will come again soon.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

1st May & the Biggest Rhododendron in Wales begins to flower!


'Old Port', the largest Rhododendron in Wales, if not the World, is coming into flower! Planted in around 1860, this is an utterly stunning shrub that you just have to see to believe.

Thess pictures were taken on Wednesday 1st May - we have three 'Roddy Walks' a year in which head gardener Roddy Milne gives a guided tour of the woodland gardens. We were delighted to have a large group of people to pose in front of 'Old Port' to show how huge he is. The close ups are the few flowers already open.

More pictures will follow as the grand old fella gets into his stride and gets more fantastic every day.

The garden as at 28th April 2008

Help – how do you keep track of what’s going on in a garden this size when it changes by the day? As a Woodland garden, full of Rhododendrons, Camellias, magnolias and blossoming malus varieties, Picton is a very special place at this time of year.
TOP TIP: If you’re short of time and can’t explore everywhere, start with the Bluebell Walk, peek into the Peep-In Walk and perhaps wander up to the Dew Pond. On a longer visit, you could also stroll along the path to the Walled Garden.
The Bluebell Walk
As you approach the courtyard from the car park, turn left along the lane, then left again into Bluebell Walk. At the time of writing, the bluebells were just beginning to break into flower. With each day that passes, the woodland carpet of blue will become more beautiful, particularly as it is prettily highlighted with bright yellow daisies and white wood anenomes.
The Front Drive
At the end of Bluebell Walk is the tarred Front Drive. Go right; within a few steps, you will find two stunning malus trees laden with blossom, surrounded by a colourful assortment of towering rhododendrons and eye-level azaleas on the fringe of Peep-In Walk. There’s plenty to see along the Front Drive if you only want a short stroll, or you could take a longer walk by turning left into Peep-In Walk where two huge logs flank the drive.
Peep-In Walk
There’s an inspiring variety of woodland perennials to be found in the bedding along this path. The Trilliun grandiflora have just come out, together with hellibores, bright blue lungwort, Boykinia and Trilliun sessile. If you smell honey in the breeze, it’s thanks to the Euphorbia millifera set back on the left. Continue to the end of the path and turn right at the Fallen Woman. Rhododendron Jock Hybrids are just beginning to flower on the edge of the clearing. Just beyond them, where the path forks, you can choose whether to take the short route back or see much more.

The short route: Take the fork to the right, onto the path which takes you through our Myrtle avenue. Glance left as you exit the myrtles to catch a glimpse of the tree fern glade. Carry on straight, and you will soon get back to the front drive close to the courtyard. Highlights along this Rhododendron strewn path are bright red Azalea hinodo-giri on each side of the path, with a gorgeous flowering myrtle in the background.
The longer route: Take the left fork on the path and you’ll find a wealth of flowering shrubs. A purple Rhododendron Augustinii faces a white flowering malus, followed by a white Azalea mucronata lilacinum. Numerous other varieties bore fat buds at the time of writing and will burst into flower very soon.
Turn left to go to the Dew Pond. At the junction and further along the path are our own Rh Picton Tetra., with large delicate bell-like pink flowers. The path to the Dew Pond is a lovely example of mixed planting. The delicate blossom of Malus Red Sentinel is framed by linear bamboo and laurel’s chunks of green. Wild flowers are scattered in the grass. Follow the path by the Dew Pond and come back via the filtration beds. When you reach the main path, turn right, then left to go past the Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum, now just coming into leaf. Around the Acer are masses of Primula Pulverulenta, just beginning to flower. Exit Peep-In onto the bottom of the Front Drive and you’re back to the entrance of the courtyard. Perhaps a cuppa or light lunch with a glass of wine would go down well now!
The Walk to the South Gardens:
The path to the Walled Garden will be a stunning feature for a while yet, with Camellias, magnolias and Rhododendrons vying for attention.
About two-thirds of the way down the path, look to the right and see the Jungle Garden, currently a tad forlorn after winter but with grand ambitions for the summer. Roddy, our head gardener, and his team have put up wooden structures to support a summery show of climbers and creepers to add to the Jurassic feel of the area. The Jungle Garden is by the children’s adventure play area, creating a great work-out for little minds and limbs. Before you turn towards the walled garden, you’ll find a comfy bench set among a pretty pink arrangement of Magnolia Soulangeana Lenneii, the Rh. Picton Tetra and a couple of Azaleas. Across the path, about 20 paces away, is a stunning Magnolia Stellata. You’re welcome to wander among the many flowering shrubs around the M Stellata and down into Peach House Wood, also rich in Rhodies and woodland plants.
With so much to see in the woodlands, perhaps save the walled garden for the summer when it’s at its most colourful – although you might want to peek in on the non-hardy ferns in the fernery and peruse the herb garden on the way.
There’s always lots to see at Picton. We do hope you enjoyed your visit and will come back soon to see more.

Friday, 2 May 2008

The Garden on 10th April 2008

Despite the cold snap, spring is well into its stride. As a Woodland garden, full of Rhododendrons, Camellias and magnolias, Picton is a very special place at this time of year.
TOP TIP: If you’re short of time and can’t explore everywhere, this week’s gems can be found along the path to the Walled Garden; along the Front Drive between the Blue Bell Walk and Peep In Walk; and in Peep-In itself.
The Walk to the South Gardens:
The path to the Walled Garden will be a stunning feature for a few weeks yet, with Camellias Alba plena, Donation and Adolph Addison vying for attention with their striking white, pink and red flowers. Recent frost browned some of the flowers but the colour of new blooms is taking over.
About two-thirds of the way down the path, look to the right and see the Jungle Garden, currently looking a tad forlorn after winter frost and wind but with grand ambitions for the summer. Roddy, our head gardener, and his team have been creative and put up fantastic natural sculptures, which in summer will drip with climbers and creepers to add to the Jurassic feel of the area. The Jungle Garden links to the children’s adventure play area, creating a great work-out for little minds and limbs.
Opposite the jungle garden area, stray off the path and wander among the shrubs (you won’t find ’Stay off the Grass’ signs at Picton – we want you to enjoy it all). Here you will find every shade of pink, red and white in flowering magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons big & small.
Walk Through the Peach House Wood
The Walled Garden is a summer garden so not very colourful at this time of year. If you fancy a walk through tranquil woods and have time, carry on past the Walled Garden entrance and continue into the Peach House Wood. Otherwise, retrace the path back to the courtyard and follow the signs to Bluebell Walk and Peep-In Walk. (And skip the next two paras and go to ‘A Peek Into Peep-In’.)
If you picked the option of carrying on into Peach House Wood, you will find a startling array of Rhododendrons—from tiny miniature azaleas with pretty dainty flowers in subtle pastels to tree-sized Rhododendron Arboreum. The Gunnera trail takes up again in the wood, creating an interesting example of mixed planting—swamp-loving Brazilian giants nuzzling up to mountain-loving Rhododendrons from Nepal, the Himalayas and the Far East.
As you leave the Wood via the avenues that lead to the castle, walk around the south frontage, up onto the castle forecourt (noting the Camellias flowering around the parking area, and azaleas at the crossroads).
A Peek into Peep-In
Now follow the front drive up towards the gate houses, between Bluebell Walk and the Peep In Walk. Lining the drive are more fabulous Rhodies and Azaleas. With white candle flowers on the laurels and conifers providing a green backdrop, this is a lovely sheltered walk, with barely a ripple of wind.
Take a detour into Peep-In by turning right off the front drive where two large tree trunks lie on each side of the roadside. Along that path, you will find clusters of Helibores and bright blue lungwort. Continue to the end of the path and turn right at the fallen woman (or rest on her if you will).
Along the path, to the right, you’ll find the Myrtle Avenue. ‘Tis said that if you dream of myrtle, your desires will be gratified and pleasures will possess you! So go on – walk through it, see it, smell it and maybe you’ll dream of it!
At the end of the avenue, turn left towards the tree fern glade. Before you go down the steps to the glade, look up and admire the pretty Pieris Forest Flame. A common enough sight in suburban gardens but few reach such heights.
Now follow the path to the right to see two red Azalea hinodo-giri, flanking the path like abandoned bullfighter’s capes. A certain smell may now be apparent – the attractive yellow lily-type plants in the stream are skunk cabbage and they sure do stink! Children think they are hilarious – why do kids always like horrid things?
Before you escape the stench, look out for the Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum standing by the stream just before you exit Peep-In. At the time of writing, leaf buds were fit to burst. It should be a stunning sight soon.
As you leave us, going from courtyard to car park on the Entrance Path, look right to see the sleeping giants. A large Gunnera swamp has been exposed this winter by Roddy and his team. Within a few weeks, these huge leaved plants will create a massive canopy of ‘rhubarb’ leaves. It promises to be an amazing sight!
Do come back to see the mid and late Rhodies in flower, and the Gunnera reach gigantic proportions! Why not buy a season ticket so you can visit again and again without paying again! (And you’ll get a free cuppa at Maria’s every time you come.)
We hope you enjoyed your visit.