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The sleepy winter sun rears its head late - providing welcome relief from the dark, cold morning endured. The agricultural year worked by a Mount Stuart gardener begins not with the bright, albeit wet mornings of spring, but in the fleeting days of winter. It is during this trialling period that their labour is most valuable, as October until March sees a period of preparation for the year ahead, whilst in the warmer months of April to September our gardeners reap their wholesome harvest.
The warmth of bonfires staves off the cold of winter mornings, as our gardeners burn back scrub and rhododendron to ensure a fresh start for the spring. Leaves are raked, ditches dug, fallen branches cleared and paths repaired. The vegetable patches are then fertilised, ploughed and rotovated to prepare the seed beds for spring planting. As the winter begins to give way, cuttings are taken from some of the more exuberant shrubs which are in need of thinning, and potted for transplanting and sale in the summer.
Once April nears its end, the policies are enveloped with the smell of freshly cut grass, as focus shifts towards activities more synonymous with summer. Vegetable seeds are sown and the first salads and radishes begin to appear, before the gardening team split up to tend to their allocated gardens. Specialising in their own section, each gardener develops a keen understanding of the care their garden requires.
However, the first green shoots of spring also herald the arrival of a new threat: weeds, commencing a six-month war that every gardener must fight!
June and July mark the start of the harvest, which stretches through until September. Fruits and Vegetables start to ripen, and the results of the team's springtime efforts begin to appear in the Visitor Centre's kitchens. The greenhouses too require particular attention at this time, as the gardeners tend to tomatoes, peppers and chillies to maintain both the kitchen's and the eatBute Farm Shop's stocks. Finally, the harvest concludes with the collection of seeds to ensure a supply for next year's herbaceous borders and shrubs.
Bonfires dot the policies once more, as the beds are cleared and leaves collected. Onions and garlic are still to be lifted and tied, and the potato beds tended to for the coming year. However, life resumes in the vegetable beds, which come to host a medley of sprouts, Cavalero Nero, turnips and parsnips for warm winter meals. Activity never ceases, as the gardener's last duties become punctuated with festivities, including making wreaths and bringing hyacinths and winter house plants inside.