Columnist Gordon Baillie is head gardener at Arley Hall and Gardens

JUST a few weeks ago Arley was blanketed in snow. So much snow, in fact, it felt like I had tumbled through the wardrobe and was gardening in Narnia.

Back to reality now, though, and that harsh weather is a distant memory – snow that fell on the ground has been replaced by snowdrops that have grown from it. The Grove is often the first to show signs of life and it is here that the narcissi have already starting to bloom.

Visitors may not realise it, but the seemingly haphazard appearance of the snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells was actually planned a year ago.

Lord Ashbrook started preparations by noting where there were gaps in last spring’s display – that way we have been able to put things right for the public who visit us this year.

The planning has to be done in advance otherwise you would never remember where the gaps were 12 months ago.

If the meticulous notes have the desired result, visitors will be able to walk along woodland paths lined with white, blue and yellow flowers for weeks to come. Arley’s Grove first opened to visitors in 1982 and is linked to Arley’s Woodland Walk, creating a different experience to the formal gardens.

What has been created is a place where people can go for some peace and quiet, but still enjoy a springtime spectacle.

Elsewhere the formal gardens are starting to buzz as the team of gardeners and volunteers prepare for spring and summer.

The weather continues to make life interesting though.

It has definitely been mild, which has pushed the gardens on further than is ‘normal’ for this time of year. So much so that we are pruning the roses already, something I wouldn’t normally have looked at for another few weeks. Our only concern would be a hard frost, which seems unlikely, but with our weather you never know!


I’ve heard the first magical calls of the skylark in the past few weeks. They do not reside in our gardens, but in the fields around Arley and you can hear them too as they frequent the public footpaths around the estate. Woodpeckers are preparing their homes and songbirds are in full voice declaring their territories.

Their song is something special and adds to the ambience of any garden so please do stop, look and listen when you visit.


If your lawns appear to be suffering it might be worth looking to the light – sunlight that is. I have just pruned some trees at home because they were casting too long a shadow and affecting the condition of my grass. Something to be aware of.


  • If you’ve not brushed up those leaves now is the time to do it before the bulbs push through
  • Cut back your wisterias and prune any fruit trees if you haven’t done them already
  • Get your mulch down