National lockdown restrictions have struck a blow to all those who open their gardens to the public. Gardening teams that had prepared spring tulip festivals were hit particularly hard in 2020, having already planted thousands of bulbs (120,000 at Arundel Castle Gardens) only to have no visitors.
At Hever Castle, Head Gardener Neil Miller remains optimistic about this year’s event – hoping for good weather and an ease in lockdown restrictions by April. “I’m a big fan of bold, bright colours,” says Neil. “This year we’ve gone for a palette that celebrates spring in all its glory and heralds the start of warmer days to come. In the Italian Garden we’ve got a kaleidoscope of colours fanning down the length of the gardens towards the loggia and the lake. At the castle gate, we’ve planted close to 1,000 tulip ‘Affaire’ and a new bed of more than 4,000 tulips in block colours to mimic a flowing rainbow. Around the castle walls are more than 3,500 crimson and gold ‘Apeldoorn Elite’ tulips interplanted with wallflowers ‘Fire King’ and ‘Golden Bedder’.”
Planting the bulbs in autumn is always labour intensive. “It’s all done by hand using a trowel,” explains Neil. “Half of our team have been furloughed so we’ve relied on four or five volunteers to help us plant the bulbs, interplanted with wallflowers, pansies, violas, bellis and polyanthus. “During the lockdown last spring it was just me, my deputy and one other gardener enjoying the tulips. The displays were perfect – but no one could see them!
“April is one of my favourite times of year though, when the tulips are out and the grass looks perfect. I’d love to be able to put my finger on the pause button at that moment. It’s such a lovely time of year.”
• Visit YouTube to see Neil presenting highlights of the 2020 tulip display.
Pre-book your visit
• Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7NG. Dates: 10-24 April (10am-4.30pm); adults £15.85. Contact: 01732 865224; www.hevercastle.co.uk
• Arundel Castle, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9AB. Dates: from 1 April (9.30am-5pm); adults £12. Contact: 01903 882173; www.arundelcastle.org
• Pashley Manor Gardens, Ticehurst, East Sussex TN5 7HE. Dates: 20 April-4 May (10am-5pm); adults £12.50. Contact: 01580 200888; www.pashleymanorgardens.com
• Morton Hall Gardens, Morton Hall Lane, Redditch, West Mids B96 6SJ. Dates: 1-3 May (10am-4pm); adults £10. Contact: www.rsc.org.uk/morton-hall