Seasonal Garden Highlights

The result of the enthusiasm of at least four Lord Wardens, the gardens at Walmer are a mixture of formal and informal, grand-scale herbaceous planting and naturalistic woodland. A place to explore through its winding paths. Take a journey through a year of seasonal garden highlights at Walmer Castle and Gardens.

The Queen Mother's Garden in summer at Walmer Castle

The Queen Mother's Garden in summer

Walmer Castle in spring

Spring often comes early at Walmer Castle. Winter aconites Eranthus hymalis and Muscari provide splashes of yellow and blue in the Queen Mother's Garden, along with hellebores in the Woodland Garden. In the Paddock swathes of daffodils entice you to explore the garden further, to be replaced later in the year by bluebells.

At the top end of the Oval Lawn is a well established group of Fritillaria meleagris, the snake's head fritillary, which is steadily increasing through self seeding year by year. With the warmer weather, cherry blossom in the Paddock and apple blossom in the Orchard and Kitchen Garden create a magnificent sight.

Hellebores in the Woodland Garden in spring at Walmer Castle

Hellebores in the Woodland Garden in spring
© Derek St Romaine/ Source: English Heritage

FOXGLOVE TREE

Elsewhere trees are starting to come into leaf. But the real star is often the Paulownia tomentosa (foxglove tree), at the top of the moat, which if the winter frost has not killed off its flower buds will be showing rich purple flowers shaped like those of the foxglove (Digitalis purpurea - which can be seen in the Woodland Garden) in May.

The Kitchen Garden is a highlight at Walmer Castle in any season, but the bright new shoots from the spring sowing of seeds, and the planting out of young plants, whet the appetite for the crops to come.

By late spring the herbaceous plants of the Broadwalk will be showing off their vibrant fresh foliage, ready to provide colour and interest throughout the summer months and into the autumn.

The Kitchen Garden and greenhouse in early spring at Walmer Castle

The Kitchen Garden and greenhouse in early spring
© Derek St Romaine /Source: English Heritage

BIRD OF PARADISE FLOWER

The large heated glasshouse has a striking display of the bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae), and as summer approaches the dazzling magenta flowers of the Lampranthus spectabilis brighten the display benches.

In the Queen Mother's Garden large terracotta pots are full of brightly coloured tulips and the Paul's Scarlet Hawthorn trees are full of rich red blossom. 

The Queen Mother's Garden, with potted tulips in spring at Walmer Castle

The Queen Mother's Garden, with potted tulips in spring

Walmer Castle in summer

Roses have always been popular at Walmer and during the summer they are in flower throughout the garden. In the meadow, wild flowers including pyramid orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis) as well as blue Scabiosa can be seen nestled in the long grass, and the trees surrounding the Paddock provide a striking dark green backdrop to the rest of the garden.

The yew cloud hedge and Broadwalk in summer at Walmer Castle

The yew cloud hedge and Broadwalk in summer

SUMMER PRODUCE

During summer the Kitchen Garden is in full production with a large selection of soft fruit, vegetables and flowers making a good show. Some of this produce is used in the tearoom, while the cut flowers are used in the castle. Some produce is also grown in the glasshouses, including tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. The glasshouses also provide a permanent display of houseplants, cacti and succulents.

The double border is superb throughout the summer with drifts of plants such as Bear's breeches (Acanthus spinosus), spiked blue Echinops ritro, the tall yellow Cephalaria gigantea, Goldenrod, (Solidago) and dark pink Persicaria amplexicaulis, all set against the backdrop of the dark green cloud hedge.

The cloud hedge also provides a stunning backdrop to the Oval Lawn with its stately trees. Many of the specimen trees have an important pedigree as they were planted by past Lord Wardens, including William Pitt, Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The moat, shaded by the high walls of the castle, abounds with colourful shrubs at this time of year, including hydrangeas, Choisya ternata, and the majestic Magnolia grandiflora.

The Kitchen Garden at Walmer Castle in summer

The Kitchen Garden in summer

THE QUEEN MOTHER'S GARDEN

In the Queen Mother's Garden, the wide borders are filled with sculptural plants such as tall, purple headed cardoons, deep blue Agapanthus, purple Verbena, scented roses and mauve alliums. The colours in the borders reflect the taste of the late Queen Mother.

The Broadwalk at Walmer Castle in full bloom in summer

The Broadwalk in full bloom in summer

Walmer Castle in autumn

As summer turns to autumn the Kitchen Garden at Walmer Castle is at its height with a wide range of fruit, vegetables and cut flowers.  Apples and pears are starting to ripen in the orchard, showing splashes of colour against the green foliage.

Pumpkins ripening through late autumn in the kitchen garden at Walmer Castle

Pumpkins ripening through late autumn in the kitchen garden

CYCLAMEN AND AUTUMN CROCUS

In the Paddock, the meadow has been cut and cyclamen are starting to flower under the trees here and in the Woodland.  This will be followed by a fine show of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale).

Colour is provided in the Queen Mother's Garden by Japanese anemones, the stars of the show, from summer through to autumn.  As the leaves of the Virginia creepers (Parthenocissus), and crimson glory vines (Vitiscoignetiae) change colour, they turn the walls of the castle flame red. 

Walmer Castle covered in Virginia creeper showing fiery autumn colour

Walmer Castle covered in Virginia creeper showing fiery autumn colour

Walmer Castle in winter

With just a few remaining crops in the Kitchen Garden, the hard work of preparing the ground again for the new season is well under way. Shelter from the worst of the winter weather can be found in the glasshouses. Their collection of ornamental plants, including scented pelargoniums and succulent aeoniums, provide interest throughout the winter while the beds in the kitchen garden are prepared for the new productive season.

A collection of ornamental plants in the glasshouses at Walmer Castle

A collection of ornamental plants in the glasshouses

SNOWDROPS AND 'SUMMER SNOWFLAKES'

Colour and interest in the garden are provided by snowdrops in the Woodland and during mild winters with an early showing of the 'summer snowflake' Leucojum aestivum in the Queen Mother's Garden.

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