Sunday, 13 April 2014

Arundel Castle opens in a blaze of colour for annual Tulip Festival

The Collector Earl's Garden at Arundel Castle in full bloom at the annual Tulip Festival
A burst of sunny, spring weather and plenty of carefully-chosen bulbs guarantee that visitors to Arundel Castle will be met by a blaze of colour if they visit the Tulip Festival in the walled gardens this year. There will be some 15,000 tulips in bloom over the next few weeks and it's a spectacle worth seeing if you're in the vicinity. The bumper crop - planted over the winter months - is blooming early this year and will carry on through Easter and into May. 
Part of the charm of the gardens at Arundel is the setting within the castle grounds
Open from April to November every year, the gardens at this ducal property have been the subject of extensive redesign and renovation during the last 10 years, kicked off by the opening of the Collector Earl's Garden in 2008. Arundel is home to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk and, whilst the castle is well-known for its beautifully-furnished public rooms and fine collection of paintings, the garden had new life breathed into it when they commissioned Isobel and Julian Bannerman (who also worked for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove) to carry out a major re-design.
Yew buttresses provide a focal point in the herbaceous borders at Arundel Castle
The Tulip Festival is a relatively new event at the castle and kicks off the garden season each year. Just one of the innovations introduced by head gardener - Martin Duncan - since he arrived here, together with the Stumpery (below), which was added in 2013. But each new addition in the garden is designed to draw a different kind of visitor into the castle grounds and this year for the first time, there is an annual pass available so that garden lovers can visit as often as they want for just £30. 
The Stumpery was added to to the gardens at Arundel Castle in 2013
The Bannerman's contribution - the Collector Earl's garden - forms the heart of the former walled kitchen garden, which once supplied all fruit and vegetables to the castle. It is named after Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, who spent much of his life travelling and collecting valuable objects including paintings and portraits, many of which are now on view in the castle today. Predominant features here include a huge domed pergola, fountains, gateways and pavilions, all in green oak, plus a centrepiece of a mountain of rock planted with palms and rare ferns, and a selection of hot, tropical plantings in high summer.
Restored glasshouses sit at the heart of today's kitchen garden, housing exotic fruits and flowers
The glasshouses in the former kitchen have been fully restored and house a collection of fruit and exotic flowers in high summer, while the surrounding cut-flower garden (also redesigned in 2013) is planted to give good colour throughout the season, starting with spectacular displays of tulips for the annual festival in April and May. The organic Kitchen Garden in this same area provides some of the produce for the castle restaurant.
Arundel Castle was completely restored in the 19th century by the 15th Duke of Norfolk
Arundel Castle and grounds are open Tuesday- Sundays inclusive (plus Bank Holiday and all August Mondays) from 10.00-17.00, April to November. There is a tiered entrance price structure, depending on what you wish to see, but prices for the garden start at £9.00 for adults. Other notable gardens in the area include Denmans and West Dean.
And for one of the best spring gardens in the world, click here to see Keukenhof, Holland.

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