That back-to-school energy is here with us again, and it definitely feels like a new term in the garden. My own school days may be a distant memory but I still enjoy that buzz from my earlier years and I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen in the gardening year ahead.
September is often a time of on-boarding new employees and this month is no different. We have a new gardener joining our team and, just like the teachers at school, I will pair the new joinee with a different member of staff each day, so they can shadow them, learn the different areas we have, and have the time to fall in love with the different garden spaces at Hever. They might start off in the Blue Corner with Darren, tidying this magical space where the house colour is most definitely blue, before going off to check out the incredible ferns under the Golden Staircase, or tidying around the hostas on Pergola Walk.
The key thing is for the new employee to feel a part of the team: the horticultural element of the job literally ‘grows’ from that.
There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn in September. We will continue to cut the kilometres of yew hedge that we have here. The yew was central to William Waldorf Astor’s garden plan in 1904. After a visit to the British Museum at the turn of the 20th Century, Astor produced a set of drawings of the type of chessmen that were used in the time of Henry VIII and asked his contractors Cheal and Sons to reproduce the chessmen in yew. A man named Peter Braden was assigned the task of training the yew and after just three years they were ready for planting at Hever.
You can still enjoy the yew chess set now – you’ll find them if you wander through the Tudor Garden and pass the herb borders.
Following the request for the chessmen, Astor told Cheal that it was appropriate to create a maze. The maze was formed by 1,000 yew trees imported from Holland, each six metres high at the time. It would have been an extraordinary job to transplant trees of this size but according to Cheal, each survived.
The maze is one of the elements that Hever Castle & Gardens is famous for – it’s definitely a favourite among school children who visit. I wonder what Astor would think now, if he were able to see us cutting his yew and getting lost among the fine smelling trees…
September is a great time of year to think about what you might want to do next year. What bulbs do you plan to plant in October? Do you want to replace your rose bed in November? If so, you need to order your bare-root roses for delivery in eight weeks time.
Another job that’s high on the list is the dead-heading of the roses – this can be continuous in September – so we get a good second flush of blooms.
This is the month to lift and divide the ‘clumpy’ perennials that have performed well this summer. It’s possible to double your achilleas once they’ve finished flowering if you lift them gently with a fork, divide them with your hands and replant them. Remember to give them a good soaking once they’re back in the ground.
September will also see us working on the new Dye Garden, so it’s ready for the tour and tutorial that forms part of our Autumn Colour activities next month. We are planting 240 plants that can all be used in the dying process. These include achillea, solidago, coreopsis, camagrostos, sporabolus and astors.
And finally, there’s still life in your hanging basket in September: make sure you keep it tidy, feed it and deadhead the plants and it will last a few more weeks. Following that, don’t forget to make a date in your diary for next month’s winter-spring container demonstration, where I’ll be imparting some plant suggestions and showing you how to layer the bulbs and winter plants.
Visit Hever Castle & Gardens.