Nestled in a valley among the rolling pastureland of North Devon, just up the road from Letterfest HQ is Marwood Gardens. 

This magical and very special 20 acre private garden with its three lakes, woodland and meadows, was created by Dr Jimmy Smart in the late 1950's. 

The garden has featured on many gardening TV shows over the years and is a renowned cultivator of magnolias and camellias.
Letterfest have teamed up with head-gardener Matthew Brewer to offer our subscribers an insight as to what's going on in the garden at Marwood month by month. Matt will offer some pointers on what you could be doing in your own garden as the seasons change and perhaps offer a little inspiration too. And if you're not a keen gardener or lack the space to flex green fingers, just kick off your shoes, pour a cup of tea and be transported to the peaceful surroundings of Marwood Gardens for a while. 

Head Gardener Blog- February 2021

As I write this month’s blog, the sun is streaming in through the window. The garden is very spring-like, a small colony of white and purple crocus have colonised the tearoom lawn. Snowdrops and hellebores which are still flowering but will soon give way to the masses of Daffodils that are spread across the garden. Camellias are in full bloom in shades of red, pink, and white and the magnolias are covered in fat flower buds promising a good display in the next few months. There is an air of optimism in the garden, a feeling of real positivity and that normality is just around the corner. 

Jobs in the garden

Tree work in the garden has continued apace and now having accrued a large amount of wood chip we will be able to spread fresh bark chips across our many paths to mop up the last of the winter wet. As well as continuing to cut back flowerbeds, we have begun mulching, hopefully reducing the frequency that we will need to revisit the beds to weed. The astilbe beds have been cut back and covered in a good layer of compost, so the middle lake area is beginning to look very sharp. 

Now is a good time to prune roses. Rose leaves have yet to emerge in February, so it is clear to see what needs to be done, and it will not be long before they enter active growth so any pruning cut made will heal quickly. A great deal of attention is being focused on the beds within the walled garden. Many of these beds in time have become quite overgrown and by hard pruning many trees and shrubs we have been able to bring light into these areas. The hope being we can plant many more interesting and attractive climbing plants along the sun baked walls. The popular red flowering Abutilon ‘Patrick Synge’, located at the entrance of the plant sales shed, which always receives so much admiration. The abutilon, together with a climbing hydrangea, have benefited from last year’s mild winter have grown excessively and have received a long-awaited haircut. 

Tips for your Garden

  • Mulching borders before spring flowering bulbs and herbaceous perennials emerge.
  • Rose Pruning
  • Good time to cut back ornamental grasses
  • Start to think about the lawnmower out to give the first grass cut of the year. 

Plant of the Month

Rhododendron sutchuenense

The Szechwan rhododendron is native to western china and is one of the earliest and hardest of the flowering Rhododendrons at Marwood. It has large trusses of very vibrant mauve or magenta flowers above equally large leaves, making it stand out from anything else planted in this area. This large shrub is planted a sloping bank between the folly and the scented arbor.