I have really enjoyed reading so many beautiful posts on tulips – particularly as my own display this year hasn’t been brilliant. I planted 100 in the front garden and very few have actually flowered – totally my own fault as they were planted in February. The tulips in the photograph are the free Darwin Hybrids that I (again very last minute) shoved into a few pots. They have been sensational – strong statement colours that lasted for about two weeks. These shall now be planted deeply into the side border – hopefully to return for many years to come!
The remaining flower photographs are all from the pond garden. The Primula denticulata have been amazing planted en mass with some orange tulips and daffodils. The daffodils have carried through the brilliant yellow of the marsh marigolds. Floating over the bed are the stunning pink flowers of the ornamental cherry. I know that purple, orange, yellow and pink should perhaps not work… but it has been amazing! As the primula flowers fade I have 80 P. vialii ready to fill the gap.
In the potager I have planted out the sweet peas, peas, mangetout, radish, beetroot, sugar snaps, greens and some edible flowers. The greenhouse is full to bursting with seedlings. I’m starting to plan the removal of turf in the bee garden / orchard and the expansion of the back garden border. Plus there’s all the weeding, additional planting and moving – so much to do, so little time!
I love Spring. The flowers, the bird call, the vibrant lime green leaves that are just starting to show. The pond is coming alive and oh so suddenly there is a garden again!
Most of my seed sowing has happened over the last few weeks. Except for the tomatoes (which I’m really questioning this year – the time -v- output – can I justify it?), everything else has had the first crop sown. Lovely to see the greenhouse full of seed trays and new shoots. A little frightening as well given the snow we had up here last night and during the day. Last year I started everything off too late and felt the consequences during my summer harvest – hopefully I haven’t jumped too soon this year! Impossible weather.
The rhubarb has been as wonderful as ever, although it has already started to flower. Does this mean it needs to be split? Stewed with ginger and orange juice – superb! I still have kale, purple sprouting broccoli and leeks coming from last year – have well and truly filled the hungry gap for 2017.
The front spring border has been beautiful – the weeks I spent clearing rhododendron, rotivating, weeding and planting bulbs was certainly worthwhile. Now it needs to be refined. I’ve had lots of fritillary spring up – however, I understand why they are naturalised rather than planted into the border – the flowers are beautiful but they look a little lost without some grass. My strength is certainly not grasses – but I expect there is something that I could plant both to support them and to show off the blooms to their full potential – perhaps that’s a job for tomorrow’s snowy day.
I was recently asked to bring to mind a safe place. Somewhere that made me feel calm, alive and soothed. Whenever asked a question like this previously, my mind automatically pictured a tropical beach scene. This time, however, I paused and considered what was relevant for me now – I pictured myself in my back garden, sitting in the sun on the pontoon that floats over the pond, watching the birds bathe and feed. The daffodils are flowering and the cherry is coming into blossom. Not only can I see the birds, but their song fills the air. This scene uses four of my senses which I believe makes it more liveable.
I have spent many hours over the past two weeks enjoying this scene from my kitchen window – not because I needed a mental ‘safe place’ but because the birds are just so beautiful. A pair of bullfinches, song thrush, goldfinches, nuthatches, robins, blue tits, wrens, chaffinches – there are just so many beautiful birds visiting the ornamental cherry tree – feeding off the tree but also on the black sunflower seeds and the niger seeds that I provide.
I had planned to spend time this week hard pruning the dogwood that sits behind the pond. It was planted by the previous owners and, while I have attacked it every year, it’s still relatively out of control and towers almost 3 metres high. The plan was to cut a third of the stems to ground level to provide stunning new red growth for the years ahead. However – the birds love it how it is and are often perched on the high stems drying their feathers after a bath. So, for their sake, I’ve decided to continue as I have in the past – controlling very lightly. It is their garden more than it is mine.
When I last visited my parents I loved watching the birds that visited their feeders, but was struck by the stark difference between their Australian experience and mine – out there the birds were huge – king parrots, rainbow lorikeets, galahs and cockatoos – birds that are totally in-your-face with their colours and their calls. In comparison our English birds are charming and dainty, infinitely more subtle but every bit as beautiful.
I think flowers at the end of winter are absolutely delightful. My hellebore”Penny’s Pink” is just stunning; I also have a white hellebore that is a lot simpler but also very beautiful – I’m rather wowed by its change from white to green. I’ve discovered recently that I love green flowers, they balance other colours so beautifully.
Elsewhere in the garden I have a mahonia, sarcococca and winter heathers all in flower, as well as crocus and a few snowdrops. My snowdrops have been really disappointing – after transplanting a couple of hundred last year, very few have come up. I planted them in the green into a rose bed…. and think now that perhaps the soil is just too rich for them to manage. I’ll now dig up the few that have survived and move them to a more hospitable location.
I also have a shrub that has flowered for the first time this winter – it’s been in the garden for about 3 years and had made the ‘do something or die’ list. I vaguely recall buying a scented shrub for near the front door, so to see it flower is lovely. I think it’s a Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ – however, I’m not inundated with the many flowers shown on on-line images… perhaps I’ve not nurtured it enough, or it may still be too immature. Anyway, while the plant is not the most beautiful specimen, the depth and sweetness of the scent is a joy.
This week I have finally managed to sow my sweet peas – I’ve never sown this late so fingers crossed I have some blooms later in the season. We’ve had so much rain in Buxton – as we move into March I’m really ready to stop planning and to start moving!
Having turned my back on the garden for the past month, it’s lovely to connect again and to feel the love for my little space. The garden is full of birds, the bulbs are on the move and, surprisingly, I’m still enjoying quite a few vegetables from the plot. Three varieties of kale – used as a key ingredient in a warming winter soup!
Downing tools has given me the chance to sew a special birthday quilt for a surf-loving brother. It has also given me time to reflect on the year that has been, and of course, to consider what I’d like to achieve for the year ahead. Opening for the NGS last year was physically really tiring – so I’m very happy this year to garden for myself – to make improvements and finish a few projects, but most of all to enjoy the garden, to sit and read, to pick more flowers and take more photographs.
There are some aspects that I don’t think worked for me last year. The cutting garden has gone, primarily because it was at its peak in July / August when I head away for the summer – all that work and no-one to harvest and enjoy it seemed a bit sad. Edible flowers will remain, and I will certainly do the sweet peas and cornflowers – but I’ll go back to picking (sparingly) from the borders!
My other real ‘failure’ was my Sissinghurst-esque tie down of the roses. I believe the mistake I made was pulling them too strongly – so many of the branches that were tied didn’t flower at all, and some died. Big error. I will attempt it again, but will be kinder on the poor rose! I loved a post by The Dahlia Papers on Sissinghurst – and can picture the rose lace adorning my stone walls… I have a trip planned to Sissinghurst in June so can check if mine looks like theirs… I can but try.
As the winter chills and the grey skies descend, sending me into a whirl of homesickness for warm days and a family gathering, I’ve looked to my garden to help snap me out of it. Sure it was a blustery, cold day – but getting out into the elements and planting some of the few bulbs I hadn’t yet got to was good therapy! And I watched a kingfisher diving into my pond – absolutely amazing – and suddenly my world righted itself just a little.
Mum gave me a beautiful ceramic pendant a few years ago that now hangs on the rustic fence at the back of my garden. It reads…. “to forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves” (Ghandi). I certainly find my horticultural exploits very grounding and life affirming – and have met so many people, both personally and in the virtual world, who feel the same. We are so lucky to have discovered such a beautiful gift.
I have promised myself that in 2017 I’m not going to start another large garden project. Rather, I want to really look at what I have and make the very best of all of it. Enhanced colour combinations, extended seasonal interest, growing food that takes me through all the seasons, installing the polytunnel, sorting out the shed! It will be a year of maintenance and completion. And when possible, to encourage and include my little girl in the garden – to try and get some of this goodness into her life as well.
But for now, as the forecast is set to dip again, I’m enjoying planning the vegetable garden planting for 2017. The thousand bulbs that went into the front garden are starting to shoot – so, while trying to live as mindfully as possible, I’m also looking forward to the show of colour after all the planting work of 2016.
Sitting and looking out the kitchen window today I was thrilled to see a nuthatch and a goldfinch feeding. The nuthatch is a pretty regular visitor – but goldfinches are usually seen mid-ish summer going after the thistles I leave in my wild garden. A much-needed beautiful scene in my autumn garden that is (very) slowly being put to bed.
I love autumn for the stunning leaves, the remains of the harvest, for days in front of a warm fire. But I don’t like the start of the very chilly weather and the damp – give me a heavy snowfall any day. I have a sewing project on the go and plenty of text books to read – so I’m currently feeling no urge whatsoever to head outside. The garden is definitely not looking its beautiful best!
However, major success – the bulbs have gone in. Except for the camassia. Have I run out of time….? I had to call in some extra help to prep my new front border – thank goodness for the husband, otherwise I think it’d still be out there. The front border now has daffodils, crocus, fritillary and tulips. 1117 in total, giving me about 100 per square metre which should give us a good starting point. In Spring I’ll plug the gaps with bluebells, hyacinths and snowdrops. Foxgloves are in but I missed forget-me-nots, hellebores and primulas. Next year.
I’m now trying to decide whether to head out on one of our warmer days to plant the Primula vialli around the pond. Would be totally gutted to lose them should we have a really chilly snap just after planting. Perhaps a covering of fleece for the first month or so may do the trick….. Hmmmm? Sweet peas also yet to do. And the mulching. And here I was thinking (….. hoping) the gardening year was over.