GARDENING: Wonderful to work in the sunshine at Haddon Hall

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After a gruelling winter and slow spring, it’s been wonderful to work in the sunshine this month.

It’s amazing how fast nature catches up after a slow start. The blossom this year seems to have been better than ever, with the garden as a whole also seeming to have picked up speed at an incredible rate. In the beds, the hazel supports we put in place are quickly being smothered and disappearing from view as the plants grow through them at a rate of knots. The gaps between the plants are closing up, which gives the weeds less of a chance to get a look in.

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One of the stars of the show at the moment is Centaurea ‘Amethyst in Snow’, a striking bi-colour variety with white petals and a deep purple centre. These plants have proved to be very reliable, putting on a fine show every year and gradually spreading through the border. Once the flowers have faded, the old stems can be cut back to the central rosette of foliage to keep things tidy. Sometimes a second flush of flowers will prolong the season. These plants are always a hit with visitors, as are the Irises, which share the same bed and as I write, are just about to explode into colour.

Adding to the show on the top terrace are a group of naturalised pure white wild alliums, enjoying the shelter of a crab apple tree. Allium Neopolitanum, as we believe them to be, appear on a bank which is left to grow wild and as such springs surprises on us from time to time.

The dahlias we have been bringing on in the greenhouse and latterly the cold frames over the past couple of months are straining at the leash to escape from their pots, so we will be finding gaps in the borders on the fountain terrace for those this week. The ever-popular Café au Lait along with the darker Rip City and Arabian Night are the varieties we are using, as all of them complement the colour palette in these borders.

May is really the last of the more subdued months in the gardens before the full floral glories of the seasons are upon us in June, when the many roses, both on the walls and in the borders, bathe the garden in colour and perfume. To sit amidst this profusion on a still summer afternoon must rank as one of the great pleasures of the Peak District.

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Finally, I’m delighted to report that we have a new Head Gardener here at Haddon- and I’m looking forward very much to working with her. Lindsay Berry has come to us from Ordsall Hall in Salford, so is well versed in historic gardens and is a strong advocate for organic gardening. She’ll bring some great ideas and technical expertise to Haddon and will be introducing herself to you next month through this column. Or of course you could just come along to Haddon to meet her and say hello!

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