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.

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