Tuesday, 10 February 2009


If you think February gardens are grey and boring, think again. At Picton Castle, there are pretty stirrings of colour in the woodlands, and succulent buds bristle with promise of wonderful things to come, some within a week or two.

Some brave Rhododendron are already in the flower – notably a very large tree-like specimen in Peep-In Walk and another in the Avenues. Photographed after last week’s snow, the flowers are a little bruised by cold but still a welcome splash of colour.

Smart planting of hellibores and snowdrops together bring a delicate touch to ground level in the Avenues. This is probably the only part of the garden where you have to go ‘off-path’ and it’s a tricky business trying not to step on the masses of daffodils, bluebells and other bulbs thrusting through the grass. It’s worth making hop-skip-and-jump progress around the towering trees and budding shrubs to see what’ll happen next.

There’s a race among the Magnolia to spring into flower. The photo archive reveals an interesting contrast between last year and this year. The 2008 picture of a splendid Magnolia Cambellii x Robusta was taken in late February. The snowbound picture was taken on 5th February 2009, but tight grey buds seem unlikely to ‘ripen’ within two weeks.

Nearby a Magnolia Stellata (photographed here in the background, behind a Rho. Nobleanum) is going great guns to make a show for next week’s Half Term opening. We’ll track progress.
Peep-In is probably the most interesting part of the woodlands right now.
A splattering of cheerful yellow Winter Aconites look lovely in a herbaceous border but bring despair to head gardener Roddy Milne. His team planted a dozens of them but the woodland mice seem to have feasted during the lean winter months!

The tree fern glade has a slightly comical air, with ferns like wounded arachnia wearing straw caps to protect their crowns from frost.

Nearby, in the winter light, the cocoa brown trunks of the myrtle avenue gleam in the winter sunshine, creating a magical pathway.

Clumbs of whispering bamboos provide linear greenery in unexpected places and laurels brace against cold winds, providing the shelter against vicious weather. It's is the sheltered environment that allows Picton’s famous Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Magnolias to thrive, and that make a winter walk in the woods such a delight.

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