The Garden Diaries

By Belvoir Head Gardener – Tom Webster

February 2023

As we teeter tentatively into February, it seems to me that, although we are in the middle of winter, there are signs of spring. Snowdrops are coyly nodding in anticipation of our Snowdrops at the Castle Garden tours, golden catkins are dangling like leftover baubles on the hazels, and our daphne bholua is in full flower at the entrance to the Spring Gardens. Their fragrance hits you as you walk in and reminds me of a particular bar in Marseille in 1969…anyway, all is in readiness for the Garden opening. 



The much-awaited pear trees have still not yet arrived, mother nature is once again, getting in the way as the frozen ground is preventing the lifting or planting of the trees. However, I expect, at any moment, to get a phone call; “where do you want these trees?”, heralding the arrival of a further thirty cider apple trees to fill some of the gaps in the new orchard. I spend my spare time carefully pruning the existing ones.

The roses have arrived but we are unable to plant them for a while. The Rose Garden has been taken over by our very popular ‘Spectacle of Light’ event, which continues until the 19th of the month. The roses have been heeled in until then, we will be planting them in cardboard boxes! More on this later.

I try to avoid those sections of the garden journals which tell you what you ought to be doing this month, however, you might like to have a look at that big old apple tree in your garden and consider pruning it so that you can get at the apples instead of them falling all around the tree and rotting – it wants to resemble the spokes of an umbrella. This is a lot of work, so you may want to put it off for another year.



Talking of trees; the estate is looking particularly imposing now in the changing light that winter provides. We have some champion trees here, often taken for granted, but deserving of more attention. I have been advised to gather the acorns of one ancient oak, pre-dating Henry VIII, propagate them, and plant its children around the estate.  This is to preserve the integrity of the Belvoir oak seed pool.  The roots of this tree will extend way beyond the drip line of its leaves and its mycorrhizal filaments, which attach to the roots and supply its host with nutrients, extend considerably further. This mycorrhizae also acts as an early warning system for disease and disruption. In essence, when you walk past a tree, in all probability, it knows you are there.