February 2021

Well here we are again, I think we can all agree that this was not the start to the year anyone would’ve wished for but it is where we find ourselves.

Helmsley Walled Garden remains closed for now. We are hoping to open in March but as I write this at the end of January it’s hard to know what will happen.

In the meantime, June, Heather, Tony and myself are all doing as much as we can, weather permitting, to get the garden ready for visitors.

I have to say that the weather has been relentlessly anti-gardening so far. There’s not been a day when it’s been possible to get on the soil and the forecast is not encouraging.

The choice is then to either hurl threats and a colourful array of sailor language at the weather or think is there something else I can be getting on with?

For me two things come to mind, one is to carry on and finish the work I’m doing on the Laburnum Arch. I’ve had the chance to take a really good look at it this year and it has given me the opportunity to work out a programme of restorative pruning. One way and another it’s got a bit out of shape which can happen very quickly if one takes their eye off the horticultural ball.

Getting it to look the way I want will take two to three years of selective pruning so there’s no worry about me being under employed in January any time soon.

The other task to be getting on with is of course seed sowing. There is a delicate balance between sowing too early with resulting seedlings getting leggy and weak and leaving it too late and having to rush pricking out and potting on.

One thing that can be sown now and indeed earlier are sweet peas. They grow long deep roots so it’s good to sow them in something like an cardboard loo roll tube or a root trainer. They are sensitive souls who don’t like having their roots disturbed and loo roll inside works because you can plant the whole thing in the ground.

To my favourites then: absolutely top of the list for me is ‘Wiltshire Ripple’. There are various types of sweet pea and various ways to work with the seed which I will give you the fun of looking up. Suffice to say ‘Wiltshire Ripple is a Spencer sweet pea with a glorious scent. It’s a looker too, a clear white that looks as if someone has taken a paint brush laden with paint of a deep claret and splashed it across the flower.

I’m not the best person to be asking for recommendations of pale sweet peas but there are lots to choose from. If you want a range of colour then going for a mix like ‘Old Fashioned’ or ‘Mammoth’ is a good idea. But there are lots of fabulous varieties to try. ‘Matucana’, two tone flowers of violet and deep crimson, simply zinging with scent, ‘Dorothy Eckford’ the clearest of whites, ‘Windsor’, a warm chocolatey maroon or ‘Beaujolais’, a deep claret red.

The best thing about sweet peas is that the more you pick them, the more flowers they produce. So you can fill your house with colour and scent for weeks; bliss.

Here at the garden we generally get our seed from King’s, but as they say on the television other seed merchants are available. If you haven’t, do give them a go, they are truly the scent of summer.

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