It’s been long time since I last wrote and the garden has spent most of that time being rained on. I spent most of that time waiting for the rain to stop. It’s only recently that the ground has dried out to a point where the grass doesn’t squelch when you walk on it and the pools of water collecting in the border edges have drained. There are still some areas of the garden that are decidedly soft and leave footprints and it might be several more days before those start to dry.
Let’s have a picture and paragraph theme to go through some of what’s been happening since the rain, snow and freezing temperatures finally cleared.
I’ve continued going through the last of the patio pots and these were full of Regal Lilies, as well as chafer grubs and vine weevils, hence rescuing these bulbs and replacing the soil entirely in the pot. I disposed of the chafer grubs as they’re too big for small birds with eyes bigger than their beaks. I tried to find and pick out all the vine weevil grubs but they’re small and easy to miss so after sifting through, I spread the soil very thinly on the empty expanse of new border so birds can come and pick out the rest.
The crocuses in the corner border are flowering nicely and I’ve noticed that they’ve begun to tentatively spread about too. Their numbers don’t really seem to be any more than when I first planted this border so I think we’re loosing them at the same rate they’re spreading. I’ve tried to put crocuses in the Landing Pad border but almost the entire lot (several hundred bulbs) were dug up and eaten by the squirrels, so that border is being planted with daffodils instead, which they should leave alone (daffodils are poisonous to them).
The magnolia – probably one of the first trees/shrubs to be planted in the garden, is gearing up to flower. We have a variety called “Heaven Scent” and it does have a lovely – if not very strong – fragrance, which is unusual for a Magnolia. This one flowers later, avoiding the worst of any late-season frosts, but it does mean that I spend a lot of time watching and waiting on a tree whose branches are now smothered with flower buds. I’m eagerly waiting for that flash of pink and white as the protective coverings start to peel back and reveal the flowers.
Of the several inherited camellia shrubs, this pink one is always the one to open first and is the brightest. The whole top of the shrub (way above head-height) is now out in flower and the flush works its way down the plant. The new season is always signalled by the Camellias coming into flower, I think it’s because they were the only thing we had in the garden that flowered early when we first moved in and so despite snowdrops, crocuses and Sarcococca – which were all added later – the Camellias have the privilege of ringing the bell that signals, “Spring is here and you’re a month behind on jobs already!”.
This lovely small swath of snowdrops developed from two bunches of snowdrops that I pilfered from the parents’ garden. I dug them up when they were “in the green” (and not looking), took them back to this garden and carefully teased the bunches into individual plants. I proceeded to plant them individually, spread out and in the three or four years since, they’ve multiplied to create a continuous carpet. If I manage to fit it in, I’ll try and grab some more snowdrops but also look to digging these up, separating them out and planting them again to create a larger patch of snowdrops that I might even be able to call “a drift”.
We have many ferns in the garden and most of them were grown from spores. When you grow ferns this way, it’s easy to end up with hundreds as they all spawn en-masse. We’ve planted them about the garden in the more challenging spots (hence we have so many) and an annual job is to cut back the tatty fern leaves from last season, leaving these clean “knuckles”, which are all tightly curled-up fern fronds waiting to unfurl when the weather warms up.
The first few ferns are a novelty to cut back, then it quickly becomes a really, really tedious job, which is why I like to spread it out and perhaps just do a few ferns each time I have a gardening session and that way I don’t have to try and do them all in one long, miserable slog.
Right at the back of the garden, under the trees, where’s it’s the darkest and driest, the cyclamen are flowering. These cyclamen are ones that aren’t really supposed to be hardy, they’re the ones sold in the supermarkets at really cheap prices around Christmas. We have them indoors over the winter then plant them out here towards the beginning of spring. I think they survive due to the protection they have from the trees – the very thing that ironically makes it so difficult to establish plants here.
The conditions are really hostile in this strip at the back, it’s only for a month or so towards the end of winter – when there is still some moisture in the soil from the winter rain and still some light while there are no leaves on the beech trees – that there’s a chance for the cyclamen to grab the stage and flower. It makes me all the more impressed by their display.
Spring has arrived in the garden, while there may be still frost and cold weather ahead, there’s no doubt from this and all the other changes happening that I’m going to be playing catch-up until May.