Easter

Delicious bunny-shaped Easter egg devoured this morning. A less happy ending for the real bunnies in the field; four dead, who knows what’s killing them (although a new burrow has appeared in the wood chip pile so it may be whoever is living there). I’m not really that sad considering the damage they’ve done to many saplings. The magpies aren’t that sad either, nothing goes to waste.

Warm weather for the past few days has sped the spring process up radically, you can almost hear the growth happening. Insects coming out too – many peacock butterflies and assorted bees seem to be enjoying the sunshine as much as I am.

The auriculas are looking good right now.

This is probably the best time of year for euphorbias, and although there’s many varieties growing here now somehow I always want more.

Some really fantastic bulbs now, sparaxis and ipheon are looking very fine, the pheasants eye narcissus too.

Dogs tooth violet erythronium ‘pagoda’ is looking perfect, I’m creating more shady areas for these.

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The amelanchiers were spectacular this year, although the blossom was an unfortunate victim to the warm weather, only lasting a week or so.

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I’ve spent one day of the easter break tidying the long borders – edging mulching and weeding. A day well spent; they will more or less hold this form for the rest of the season apart from some spot weeding.

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The sorbus commixta ‘dudong’ seems to be fine (so far) after being ring-barked by a hungry vole or mouse during the winter.

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Longer evenings are ideal for photographing new leaves, the light catches their soft colours perfectly towards sunset. Here’s a zelkova serrata.

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The agricultural fields around us have been ploughed and compacted back down – not sure what will get planted but it’s a welcome change from the yellowing post-herbicide wilt that’d been there for months. And perfect for sunsets too.

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BST

Finally. British summer time started this morning. Late evening light to get stuff done after work…um… Anyway, longer days. Not warmer yet. Tomatoes and aubergines in emergency greenhouse evacuation as snow is forecast. Probably will come to nothing but it would be a shame to lose them now, having coaxed them through January and February.

Frost has taken much of the new growth, especially up to about a meter from the ground.  These fritillaria imperialis are native to Turkey, Iran and the himalayan foothills. Here the frost causes a dramatic droop Рbut they recover quickly and are mostly upright again by 10am.

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Every spring I think ‘plant more acers’. Their new leaves are something very special, easily rivalling a showy flower.

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Blackthorn vs Acer

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Damsons are in full bloom. Although this bit of old orchard is slowly falling into decline it still puts on a great show in spring.

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These Chionodoxa sardensis are also native to Turkey. Also known as glory of the snow, maybe they’ll get the chance to live up to that.

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Another favourite, Japanese native corylopsis of witch hazel family. Vaguely lemony scented which, on a still warm day, gathers in intensity.

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It’s the time of alpines and moss.

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Perennials like these lungwort pulmonaria ‘ensign‘ are in their full glory. Lungwort is actually p.officinalis – with its spotted leaves it was thought to look like a diseased lung and used to treat pulmonary infections.

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Flowering currant is really spectacular at this time of year. A very useful shrub, especially seeing how the rabbits don’t seem to want to eat it.

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Cornus and salix are all trimmed down now, gearing up for their wild skywards dash over the summer.

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Incredibly quiet with very few trains or planes, even fewer cars. Birdsong becomes quite loud in this human silence.

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Spring…

…1 March even. But starting to feel like spring, and very welcome indeed. We have been stuck in a repeating pattern of gales and rain, followed by grey days which built up to more gales and rain. But not today. Bright and clear, and over the field the first skylark. Like me, bulbs have been waiting for this day.

Spring favourites are always so good to see again after a year.

Almond and apricot, making an early appearance, hopefully no frost will knock them back this year.

Alpines speed into their season, changing almost entirely over the course of the day.

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And the ornamental cherries; trailers for their fruiting cousins.

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The calleryana pear is about to open up; survived the wind, now slightly angled.

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But not as angular as the atlantic cedar which is at extreme lean. I’m going to use ropes to guy it upright – waiting for the wind to let up before I attempt that.

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Today we cleared the walled garden, nearly ready to make a start with this year’s veg. First will be early spuds, onions and peas, but not for a few weeks yet. Broad beans and garlic seems to have enjoyed all the rain. PSB completely stripped by pigeons taking advantage of the gales’ blowing nets away.

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Daphne is covered in flowers and fills the whole garden in delicious daphne perfume. For me this is the fragrance of spring.

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Winter work

The break between old year and next year is a perfect time to catch up on structural work like moving trees and shrubs, pruning and creating new beds. A great time to do lots of looking too – observing the structure of deciduous plants and working out planting schemes. I have been making full use of the short days which pass so quickly – up and out by 7am, before sunrise and back in after 4. Mornings are often soft with mist, dampness catches in bare branches and drips down in slow rain.

The biggest task has been moving 8 tons of mulch into new beds. This is done one wheelbarrow at a time – whilst fantasising about tractors.

Winter has worn down most of the grasses but the miscanthus is still looking strong.

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These really come alive with the light, especially during the early sunsets.

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More tree planting in the field – this time scots pine, holly and picea. ¬†Although these young trees are snug in their tree guards I can’t help worrying about how exposed they are in the field. Winter gales with ice and snow? Maybe we won’t get them this year. Maybe that’s something for the next decade.

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Frost and Fungi

First frost this morning, beautiful crisp, cold and clear. Yesterday we moved the less hardy plants into shelter – just in time. Sun melts the frost as it rises leaving pockets of icy shade. Dripping leaves and crunchy grass.

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Leaves that remain have reached maximum intensity before the fall.

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Fungi are everywhere, appearing overnight in perfect damp conditions. Some look quite tasty; I don’t trust the identification skills to knock up a meal though.

Some cyclamen in full flower before they are covered in fallen leaves.

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Inside, the schlumbergera is in flower. It’s a little early for Christmas.

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