From seed to service – the Potager Garden diary

By 1st February 2024 No Comments

February 2024

It’s fair to say that during the glorious summer months, us gardeners get a lot of grief off the poor souls who work indoors.

And it is true that when the sun is out, the birds are tweeting and the sky is blue, there is not much wrong with working outside in the gardens.

However, the tables have turned, and, boy, have Jason and I suffered over the past few months.

November and December brought nothing but rain, and January was so cold that the Chichester canal even froze over.

Now it’s the turn of the guys in the warm and cosy kitchens to mock us suffering in the inclement weather.

However, we work on.

At the top of a very long ‘to do’ list sits the word ‘maintenance’ – Jason and I have been slowly working our way from the pots and borders of the Cider House Kitchen, around the potager garden and up to the hotel grounds, carrying out repairs, pruning trees and shrubs, rearranging plants and generally finishing off jobs that had been delayed by rain.

But we’re also looking ahead… not to summer 2024, but to summer 2025… by taking a large number of hardwood cuttings, because this is the perfect time of year to do it, especially with, for example, Cornus, Buddleja and Forsythia.

I particularly like Cornus (or Dogwood) as it has lovely foliage and buds in the summer, but in the autumn the branches turn a deep red, giving our conservatory border a real depth of colour.

But, how to take hardwood cuttings – first of all, select some fresh growth and cut at an angle above a bud, and then cut straight below a bud so you’re left with a length of around 25cm.

Dip the straight edge (marking the bottom of the cutting) into some hormone rooting powder, and then push into a potting media with excellent drainage.

Place them in a sheltered spot, forget about them, and come autumn, fingers crossed, you’ll have some nicely rooted new plants.

It can save a heap of cash and is a great way of introducing larger shrubs into borders, especially a big border that needs a lot of plants.

Saving money is great – especially in these austere times – but that doesn’t mean you should scrimp when it comes to Valentine’s Day!!!

Our amazing chefs will be laying on a fantastic Valentine’s Day dinner for you and your loved one – but be sure to book early as places sell out very fast.

Finally, despite this horrendous weather spell we have been through, it stills warms my heart to see the re-emerging daffs, crocuses, bluebells, tulips and grape hyacinths poking through the soil surface.

It reminds me that there are warmer times ahead, and hopefully it won’t be long before our residents and guests will be joining Jason and I outdoors (and together we can mock the chefs in the sweaty kitchen).

~ Tim