We knew the courtyard needed to be weeded again. This is one of those jobs that make you heart sink…
Because it is next to the moat we daren’t use weedkiller, so the only way is the organic way. Down on our hands and knees and we scrape.
However, when you go from this:
there is some reward.
There is also a certain fascination with the fluorescent lime of the moss
And then you look at this:
and find this sweet mother duck tucked in the corner
sitting on 12 freshly laid eggs
Your heart just melts. it doesn’t seem such a hard job after all!
Other pleasures of the day include the early blooming peony
Corylopsis pauciflora AGM (deciduous shrub)
and then be able to take home a beautiful bunch of spring flowers for the table.. – Featured image.
Where would we be without it?
We are still eating our lovely leeks from last year. Chopped and sautéed in butter. So sweet, so tender, so delicious … and today we sowed some more. Directly into the soil outside.
Leeks from last year
The rest of our day was spent weeding and preparing beds for our cutting garden this year.
I think we, as gardeners, as much as the plants, are looking for the sun to give us energy and invigorate us from the winter doldrums.
Today we were rewarded.
Pauline brings bundles of style, colour and enthusiasm to the gardening team. I love listening to her wonderful, lilting, french accent when discussing all things horticultural.
Today Pauline gathered low growing bulbs and perennials, including primroses, Ipheion uniflorum or Spring Star and Cyclamen, and the small Hart’s tongue fern from around the garden to carefully plant up the gaps between the steps.
I am hoping they won’t be overwhelmed by those Spanish Bluebells and Camassia that have found their way there too.
We also went into the woods to collect Hazel sticks for plant supports. These will be made in the coming weeks, as the perennials start emerging again in the warmer soil and longer days…
Hazel and Dogwood stems
An early start at one of our jobs last week allowed me to share a cup of coffee with the client. You know how much someone loves their flowers when you see them languishing in jars and vases on the kitchen table basking in the spring sunshine.
and finally, more by accident than design, this combination of a grass and white crocus in a pot together… on some level, it works!!
Well, we are still making stakes around the perennials this week..
There are tall varieties of Aconites, Achillea, Echinops and Sanguisorba to stake on the main border and we have run out of Willow and Cornus. That will not stop us though, as this is such a vital job at this time of year. Sticks and string (garden twine) will do the job just as well although initially it doesn’t look that great. Eventually the plants will fill out and none of these will be visible.
This week Martin has been planting onion sets in the long border outside the Old Walled Garden, digging over the vegetable patch and raking it to a fine tilth, ready for seeds. The soil had become so compacted from all the rain we have had recently. Today he planted the seeds of Swiss Chard and Perpetual Spinach.
Two years ago we had an opportunity to plant up an area besides the moat that had been neglected:
We wanted a low screen during the summer, winter interest, low maintenance and plants that would enjoy the boggy conditions. So we decided to go for a selection of willows. Several varieties were selected for their vibrant stem colours and we ordered some cuttings on-line. Following the planting guidelines we made our willow bed:
We covered the black plastic with wood chippings and away grew the willow. In February last year we coppiced the willow and developed another area with our own cuttings. This February we coppiced the willow again and this time have enough willow to make a willow basket.
I thought I would share with you a short video I made at home this week of my attempts to weave the willow basket, made from our very own, home grown, willow.
I hope that made you smile as much as it did me, on playback!
First of all, we finished our rustic arches for the clematis to grow over.. and somehow it felt like they should always have been there.
Secondly we made supports for the peonies (they are always top-heavy, especially when the flowers get wet) from dogwood cuttings that are lovely and pliable right now.
Thirdly, we have the most spectacular of plants to be flowering at this time of year, Euphorbia chariacas ‘Wolfenii’ – and this plant excels in the worst of conditions, very dry soil right next to the house and in the shade. Beautiful.
Last year our conical wigwam supports for the clematis ended up a little top heavy. Whilst I loved the ‘Noddy hat’ shape they became, I have decided this year to divide the clematis and create rustic arches out of hazel branches, for them to ramble over instead.
I was inspired by the ones I saw in Sarah Raven’s garden in Perch Hill and enthused to my fellow gardener Alix, that we really must give it a go.
So, having spent a short amount of time scavenging our woodland for a supply of hazel stems and armed with a drill and some screws Alix and I set about arch making in the pouring rain:
And the reason Alix is looking so happy in the pouring rain is that we haven’t actually made a support using drills and screws before. We have normally stuck with organic materials such as string, willow, a wing and a prayer…
The sheer joy of making a structure that feels so solid and secure put a smile on both our faces.
The arches will be completed next week… if it stops raining.
I suggest you don’t walk past a large patch of snowdrops without quickly digging them up with a trowel and dividing them into smaller clumps and re-planting straight away.
Snowdrops bulk up very quickly so as long as you keep dividing them, it won’t be long before an area can be carpeted with these dainty little darlings.