Whenever I hear the mention of Spring, I remember my Mother chanting this little ditty to me as a child. I now quietly say it to myself over and over again, rather annoyingly. However if it brings a memory of her lovely kind face to mind, then that’s ok with me.
We’ve had a few hours in the last week when I actually thought it felt like the weight of winter was lifting and ‘Spring is Sprung’ only to be cast down again into a wet quagmire of despair…
Wandering along with my head bowed, I noticed a patch of purple in the boggy grass. I’ve never really looked closely at violets so I got right down to take a picture and was overwhelmed by the delicious scent. Again I had a flashback and was reminded of a small bottle of violet perfume I was given as a child. It smelt so good I tried to drink it. Obviously not the best idea as sadly it didn’t taste as good as it smelled.
I urge everyone now, as you are wandering around with your head down, if you spot a patch of violets, to get right down and sniff. Singularly, the perfume of the flower is fairly undetectable but ‘en masse’ it is an absolute joy.
Just when the buds are swelling on the cascading branches of this tree, is the perfect time to cut away all the dead wood.
It feels symbolic in my gardening year to end the winter with this job and get up close to this beautiful old specimen with its crazy interwoven limbs.
There’s a discarded nest cradled in the crook of a branch. The lime green moss and lichen cling to the splitting bark. It’s an honour to clean up the silhouette and leave it ready to blossom with abundance heralding the arrival of Spring.
Sowing seeds at home on the windowsill isn’t always easy, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The fun side in you providing unusual conditions for the seed to grow is that they develop in extraordinary ways.
This is what can happen when you sow sweet peas indoors…
Only 7 days after sowing the seeds, the small shoots are showing. They are growing, hurray!
and just one day later they have tripled in size and are straightening out. Still growing well.
What’s growing in the light is matched in length below the soil surface with a long white root and the seed has swelled
Only 4 days later… STOP the madness guys. No more height please.
So only 16 days after sowing they have grown 30cm. Such energy. (I wish I had some of that!) However, disaster looms as one sweet pea topples sideways.
Safety measures need to be put into place…
Scaffolding in place. 18 days after sowing we are at 35cm tall and I have a feeling this isn’t going to end well…
Come back next week for further questionable developments…….
Seed sowing at home is certainly a challenge. You have to find somewhere with enough light coming from all directions so the seedlings don’t lean, that isn’t too warm or too cold. That you don’t mind getting splashed with water or crumbs of soil. That’s big enough for all the seeds you’ve just gone and bought on a whim and pictured in your imagination as bright colourful flowers filling your garden in summer. Sometimes it is just easier to wait to sow them outside in spring.
Today was always going to be a rose pruning day. In this particular garden there are over 200 roses of all shapes and sizes and they take the best part of winter to prune. It’s an enjoyable job at this time of year and can be both creative (the climbing roses) and rewarding.
However first I have to check the greenhouse, water the seedlings and pot on those needing more room to grow.
Before Christmas we sowed Broad beans, mostly outdoors but we kept a few inside in pots. To our surprise they are already flowering away and are the prettiest little plants. I just love the blue green paddle-like leaves with their white and purple flowers. So fresh. There aren’t any pollinators in the greenhouse right now so experimentally I’m just tickling each flower to see if we can grow beans. It’s only February…
Walking around the garden dodging the showers and checking on what is in bloom I discovered our Tete a tete Narcissi brightening up a small corner
It reminded me of the drive into work where I pass the same flowers planted on the verge in front of the house and how absurd and out of scale they look by a big Beech hedge. I wonder if they meant to plant regular sized ones?
In between pruning roses Im disposing of the clippings on the other side of the garden and it’s an opportunity to ponder further on the views from the garden. Designers often suggest growing plenty of evergreen shrubs and trees to give a garden structure in the winter. But it’s the framework of the deciduous trees in this garden that create a dramatic backdrop against the blue sky that gives it an intensity worthy of cinematic interest.
It’s grey, it’s wet and on a regular basis, just grim outside. Here in the UK we’ve had storm after storm, we batten down the hatches and try to stay warm and dry indoors. We are at the end of winter and slightly despairing about spending so much time indoors. But in my heart, as in every gardeners heart, is pure hope and optimism.
It starts with holding a small packet of seed or noticing through the window a bare branch or twig with little swelling green buds. I step outside and stare at my plants one by one. Some I know exactly what they are and recall their leaves and blooms from previous years immediately. Others I can’t remember at all and I search for some piece of evidence that might jog my memory. It doesn’t matter because I know, in just a couple of months time, as buds burst and leaves grow, all will be revealed.
I’ve sown some sweet peas in pots and I look longingly at the plain brown soil waiting for a glimmer of life, a tiny green shoot that has all the promise of warm summer evenings filled with sweet scent and a small posy of colourful flowers adorning the kitchen table.
The journey begins now, the rushing memories of years past and the burgeoning of hope for another year to come.
Setting off … very excited, the sun is shining and it’s a glorious day…
Meet up with Chris for lunch first and a spot of research in a Chelsea Nursery
We have tickets for the 3.30 – 8pm slot but are allowed in at 2pm. Thats loads of time. As we enter everyone is shuffling around at zombie pace already- I don’t blame them, it is hot. I know we’ll be the same in 5 hours time. We have energy, swerve the show gardens and head straight for the Great Pavilion. We gather up Alix en route and then all hell is let loose as we get excited and cameras are out for our favourites. From past experience I take photos of the flowers that I love – and labels (I think the exhibitors are missing a trick not plastering their name all over the labels?) . Alix is a little more old fashioned and it’s all pen and paper for her. I query this but she reassures me that that is the way she works.
OK I’ve already ordered 200 Narcissi for a client, having discussed with the gang which ones really are the most beautiful – but forgotten to take photos and we’re straight onto the Tulips…
So those flowers featured in the ‘Old Masters’ are/were in? – Here is one. Tulipa Grand Perfection
Next fave is Tulipa Blue Parrot
Apparently it can last 3 weeks – that is one whole week longer than many and a great additional attribute.
I hasten to add that these tulips will not look great together in my mind! Next one I love is Tulipa sprengeri… it’s been available for a long time now but oh how lovely:
and so the next stand is Bonsai???!! well, so the mind then has to disassociate from Spring bulbs and move onto miniature trees. I can do that.
I home in straight away to this gorgeous coloured tree. After a brief discussion with a Bonsai practitioner standing next to me, we agree this is a show-stopper; Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’. I then spot
Pyracantha? Surely not? This hum-drum filler of a climber for a north facing wall has been transformed into this? I have now just bought one from Morrisons for less than 3 quid – hopefully in five years time I will have recreated this!
I’ve just got into Acers – way after everyone else, in fact practically every stall had Acers as a foil/back drop. Why? Anyway it seems that in America this whitish acer is called Ghost1 or 2, whilst here it is called Acer palmatum wigume or ukigume. I liked it.
Next in this list of completely unrelated plants, I was looking for a Bourganvillea for home and while I love that ridiculously garish pink one in the south of France, I don’t think I can resist this one called Bridal bouquet.
Hours later we emerge from the Pavilion blinking in the sun light – briefly hit and miss the show gardens, partake of a splendidly prepared picnic and have no time left to peruse any more…
Where would we be without Hellebores at this time of year?
The race is on and I’m still trying to grab all those little weed seedlings, springing up right before my very eyes. In between some more major jobs, I can be found kneeling down and combing over the ground, patiently removing them with my hand fork. I remember an old allotmenteer commenting once on my weeding stance ‘What are you doing scrabbling around down there like a chicken in dirt? You need a hoe’ Well, he had a point. If the garden plants were set out in nice neat rows like his vegetable patch, I’d be the first one to grab a hoe. As it is, I have to be more discerning..
For example, we enjoy growing forget-me-nots which are annual self seeders. At this time of year they look like this:
for the last couple of years we have been inundated with this:
Valerianella locusta, otherwise known as Lamb’s lettuce.
Close up you can see the differences in colour, leaf shape and veining but faced with a patch of both, you have to get really quite close to tell them apart:
Weeding them out can drive you crazy if you allow it, I actually find the process quite meditative.
When we were not scrabbling around like chickens last week, we were doing this:
Still pruning roses
Cutting down Miscanthus
and transplanting snowdrops around…
Coppicing the willows and dogwood
and taking cuttings. Making bundles for later use as plant supports
and most importantly enjoying the garden, both outside
I’ve just got back from a fabulous month long trip to the Antipodes – +30degreesC temperatures- and wearing my plant-hunter hat, the wonderful Lord Howe Island gave me all a ‘palm loving’ gardener could ask for. Forests of Kentia Palms (indigenous to the Island) and others – featured on the stamps below – only growing on the top of the these two mountains with their very specific climates.
Such a wonderful holiday, I was sad to leave, but my small bag tells the story!
Home I came, to a very different world of icy cold grey days and garden neglect..
Last year’s perennials strewn across the borders and Hellebore leaves obscuring the delicate new flowers. For some gardeners this winter abandonment is absolutely fine as the coverage provides hiding places for wildlife. This is an excellent excuse to stay indoors and do nothing. However I firmly believe that there are plenty of alternative hiding spots around the garden for the newts and frogs and if we stumble across a hedgehog nestled in some grasses we just tuck them back in again.
So with my trusty gardening colleagues Emma and Chris
we set about putting the gardens right.
With these two cheeky chappies, the jet lag was forgotten and the fun began.
the old hellebore leaves now no longer detract from the glory of these mid-winter beauties:
The dead fern leaves were cut back to the ground
and old flower spikes went too…
The hedges and Bay tree were trimmed before birds start nesting
and the weeds – yes the weeds are still growing – have been carefully disposed of (at least for now).
Aaaaaah, now that feels better and looks just great! The perfect antidote to coming back to winter.
Plants may be fading and you may be itching to pull out old annuals and cut back the perennials and start the big tidy up, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the here and now.
I’d like to savour the early days of Autumn when the greens turn to orange, the apples, pears and berries ripen and glow and the seed heads rattle in the breeze
The spiders are busy spinning their webs which glisten in the early morning dew like pearl necklaces.
The late summer flowers of Dahlias and Alstroemerias crash and burn with the failing support of the other plants around them and the ornamental grasses, chinese lanterns and Red Hot Pokers are just coming into their own.
There’s still so much to enjoy. Cut and bring into the home a few simple daily reminders of the world outside.
All that hard work and effort must be rewarded. This is a great time of year to share, enjoy and celebrate the rewards of gardening.
Too soon it is gone.
Pick it, give it.
Let’s celebrate summer.
My humble offering is dedicated to the Pride Parade this weekend in Brighton. This is an opportunity to welcome and enjoy diversity in this city and beyond. It is a chance for the flamboyant, casual and even demure folk to take to the streets to recognise and be proud of the freedom that we have. To celebrate the open attitude to Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transexuals that our generation has made real and ok. It also highlights the many countries that have yet to acknowledge LGBT rights within the community and have severe punishments for people expressing themselves this way…
Here is my rainbow of flowers…The rainbow being the symbol of LGBT rights worldwide.