Haddon Hall in February

The magnificent Haddon Hall in winter
The magnificent Haddon Hall in winter

I pen this monthly missive by pointing out that the gardens at Haddon Hall are looking stunning – not through any horticultural finesse on this occasion, but due to a dusting of snow that arrived in the night; a reminder that winter is still with us and a gentle pull on the reins from Mother Nature for all of us gardeners for whom spring can’t come fast enough, writes head gardener at Haddon Hall, Steve James.

To those who have never seen the gardens at Haddon under a blanket of snow, I can only paint a mental picture for you of the hall’s time-worn stone stairs, balustrades and those ancient walls of the hall itself sunlit gold in stark relief against an ice-blue sky, windows firing off sparks of light, all set above a blanket of pristine white, blunting the edges of lawns, beds and borders.

Head gardener at Haddon Hall, Steve James

Head gardener at Haddon Hall, Steve James

To me this is perfection, if only for a moment. And once it has gone we shall see again the snowdrops which grow in great drifts on banks around the hall and the sunny yellow of winter Aconites – a name which always seems to suggest an ancient and fearsome army rather than these diminutive but determined plants. Elsewhere in the borders, the distinctive mottled rosettes of Pulmonaria are sending up their flower spikes, which are soon to open into distinctive blue and deep pink flowers, which are generally around long enough to attract early-rising bees.

Hellebores too are in the various stages of waking, so any remaining old leaves can be removed to keep things tidy. Elsewhere the belt-and-braces work continues with general tidying and weeding ongoing, removal of leaves and clearing of gutters and gullies, checking the stability of the various plant supports around the garden and looking for any potential problems that can be rectified before the hall once again welcomes the first visitors of the season. Hopefully our volunteer gardeners will be limbering up to lend their much-needed muscle when they too return to the hall next month.

Composting has been continuing apace at Lord and Lady Edward’s private residence. The bowling green, the garden of which, like much of the hall, has been designed by Arne Maynard. Here, the ornamental grasses in the square beds which looked so stunning in the low winter sun have now been cut down – quite an operation as there are a considerable number of them and much carting away of the debris is required. Colleague ‘Big Dave’ – who gets an honourable mention each month – had the task well in hand in record time, so that’s another job ticked off the list. And so forwards to the spring!

The river flowing by Haddon Hall in winter

The river flowing by Haddon Hall in winter

The courtyard of Haddon Hall in February

The courtyard of Haddon Hall in February

A winter scene looking over the grounds of Haddon Hall

A winter scene looking over the grounds of Haddon Hall