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An update from the Horticultural team for all you budding gardeners!

With the arrival of spring and longer days, the herbaceous perennials and bulbs at Kenton Park Estate are emerging from winter hibernation. We just need the weather to consistently follow suit now. It has been a rather wet winter for the Horticultural Team here. The debate is still open if it is possible to get waterproofs that do not leak whilst working in torrential rain all day! Team camaraderie has done wonders to keep our spirits high.  Here we are gleefully smiling on a rare sunny spring day…

Over the winter the Vineyard Kitchen Garden has continued to give produce, despite some frosts. The lemon trees you are familiar with seeing in the restaurant gave a great harvest in autumn.


Excitingly the kitchen garden has expanded this year to fifteen vegetable beds in total, providing much greater scope for some interesting vegetables to seed and plant out this spring for the restaurant.  To give you a flavour, we are trying out Radish ‘Watermelon’ and Tomato ‘Chocolate Cherry’, alongside all-time favourite ‘Charlotte’ Potatoes. We have sown ‘Malbec’, ‘Harlequin’ and ‘Lila Lu’ carrots which were growing nicely until the friendly pigeons took their pick first!

Simon has shown great patience tying up the new Trachelospernum jasminoides (Star Jasmine) to the large archways, their flowers will create a fragrant walkway, through the Vineyard Kitchen Garden vegetables, to the new Safari Grill Hut.

Our most recent team challenge was the countdown to having the Vineyard Flower Beds ready for opening in April… weed, weed and weed! The wet spring weather meant weeds seemed to grow overnight.  Barbara proved completely unfazed by the fifteen vineyard-length beds of weeds, volunteering joyfully to work extra days in the pouring rain. “Well we have just got to get it done” [whilst handing out team chocolate].

Behind the scenes, when the Estate is closed, the team gets on with ‘Mulching Monday’ spreading woodchip on all the beds. This helps to retain moisture, suppress weeds and increases organic matter and nutrients in the soil.  The Vineyard sits on sandy loam, beneficial for the Mediterranean and South African plants, although this can quickly dry out in summer, hence the requirement for mulch. We also ensure the woodchip supplied is at least 6 months' old to avoid it robbing nitrogen from the soil and plants during initial decomposition. This can happen when the chip is fresh. When buying your own woodchip, good to check it has been composted to high temperatures. This limits the spread of pathogens (such as Armillaria - honey fungus).

We are planting lots of new plants into the borders this spring. Look out for Agapanthus ‘Black Jack’ on Distillery Drive (RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2023), a new selection of Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers) around the Solaris Firepit, and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Kokuryu’ (Black Mondo grass) on Chardonnay Triangle, plus much more to come!

We are privileged to work here outdoors in the rolling hills of Devon, where the countryside offers great biodiversity.  Simon is a wildlife expert, his discussions prompt us to hear the song of skylarks above, the first spot of an early swallow, buzzards hovering, deer grazing across the field, the sound of fledglings in the hedgerow, and speedy stoats darting away. Solaris Alleyway is where we seed our pollinating annuals each year (California Poppies, African Marigolds, Cornflowers), plus where you can find the new Insectary Bughotel. Although our seedlings and tender plants have become a rabbit food delicacy, so you will notice some less attractive cloche rabbit barricades!

The fifteen flower borders that span the length and breadth of the Vineyard, are now starting to come alive.  In May the Zantedeschia (arum lilies) are opening in Chardonnay Avenue, and Lavandula stoechas are in bloom on Distillery Drive. Chardonnay Alleyway close by, is our favourite border this month, with Euonymus fortune ‘Silver Queen’ standing out, in between the emerging hostas and Allium ‘Mount Everest’.


June is always a highlight here with the vast display of alliums across the Estate.  We also start the Vine Walks Garden Tours in June, to provide more explanation of what is planted and the context behind the Vineyard planting decisions. Do come over to say hello when you see us out in the Vineyard, we are always keen to talk gardening!

That’s it for now folks, until next time…

The Horticulture Team

Anna, Barbara, Simon

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