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Arundel Castle Gardens


I am still wondering if my visit to Arundel Castle Gardens last Monday really happened or whether it was a surreal lockdown dream. Arriving in a rogue April snow shower for the first Narnia-like glimpse through one of the glorious stone archways, it felt like we were entering a fantastical film-set rather than a working garden. Like an unique blend of The Lord of the Rings and the Chelsea Flower Show, I don’t think I have ever experienced a garden that had more theatrical presence.

Arundel Castle Gardens canal
Wherever you look you find gems like this, worthy of a Show Garden on the Main Avenue at Chelsea

The garden is a sequence of powerfully-designed set pieces created by the fertile imagination of head gardener Martin Duncan; part plantsman, part garden designer, part magician – (and definitely my latest gardening crush – move over Fergus Garrett…)

The sense of other-worldliness is enhanced by the sub-tropical microclimate within the castle walls which allows towering echiums and tree ferns to echo the cathedral spires. These features are also mirrored by clever topiary which draws your eye around the garden rooms, and then skywards towards the turrets of the cathedral.

Arundel Castle Gardens topiary
Beautifully manicured hedge lines draw your eye down endless vistas then up towards the cathedral spires

Martin plays masterfully on both the gothic backdrop of the imposing cathedral and, in turn, the majestic sweeps of the borrowed landscape of the castle keep to create a series of living pictures of sublime quality.

Arundel Castle Gardens the Keep
Sweeps of pale ‘Thalia’ daffodils just giving way to a carpet of red ‘Apeldoorn’ tulips on the ramparts of the castle keep

But it was the sequence of stumperies that really intrigued me. Usually rather dark and sinister, and populated only by ferns, Martin has torn up the rule book and covered his with botanical tulips, hellebores and euphorbia to create a joyous mosaic intertwined with the gnarly stumps brought in from the Estate’s ‘87 storm-damaged woodland.

Arundel Castle Gardens stumpery
The natural twisting of the ancient tree stumps wraps around all manner of bulbs and perennials

Oh and did I mention the tulips? Well Arundel doesn’t do things by halves and literally thousands have been planted for their annual tulip festival which is just getting under way. In a normal garden this would be the main talking point, but at Arundel it is just another facet amongst so many others. Pots of the more complex annual tulips abound, whereas the lawns are planted up with the perennial Apeldoorn varieties. The tulip fest will be followed by an equally impressive allium bonanza.

Arundel Castle Gardens labyrinth
Tulips will take over from the daffodils in this labyrinth lawn – a garden photographers dream.

There is truly something for everyone in this garden, an organic veg plot, period glasshouses, historic stew ponds, herbaceous borders and some of the healthiest-looking rose bushes I have ever seen (Elaine reveals Martin’s secret formula for getting the best from your roses in her Growhow column this week and the results are, to quote a member of our group, ‘shockingly good’). All this wizardry combines to give the whole garden a sense of being a tantalising interface with a parallel supernatural universe, as if it could be the setting for a Harry Potter movie.

Arundel Castle Gardens scarecrows
I wonder if this family of scarecrows in the veg patch come to life at night? Originally outside the castle gate they had to be moved as they were too scary…..

All in all it was an out-of-body experience, and I am glad that I have the photographic evidence that it wasn’t all a figment of my imagination – I was really there with Elaine and the rest of the Garden Media Guild gang who had organised the visit.

Arundel Castle Gardens Laura and Elaine
No it can’t have been a dream because here I am with Elaine

Arundel Castle Gardens are open every day except Mondays, with prebooked tickets at £13.00 for an adult and £6.00 for a child.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

2 replies on “Arundel Castle Gardens”

Quality words Laura from an amazing morning with the Guild. Pretty sure will not see a better display and backdrops this Spring. Some of the shots with the black sky’s were amazing, Stumpery was cool and loved your image. Taking Heather back in the Summer and will become an annual treat. See you at the next event. Richard H

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