Spring at last

Even if there’s a really cold wind when the sun is out it finally feels like spring. And everyone in the garden thinks so too. Here’s many pics of what’s happening.

Exciting news is that I got given a greenhouse by our generous neighbours. I plan a reshuffle in which one of the existing greenhouses will turn into an alpine house. Alpines are at their best in spring.

The epimediums are looking really good too.

Erythronium dens canis the dog’s tooth violet; their best angle is wherever you’re standing.

Euphorbias are really showy at this time of year – some of my favourite plants.

Many bulbs flowering now – here’s a few of them.

The great cherry blossoming has begun – slowly with the fruiting cherries and spectacularly with the flowering ones.

Crab apple flowers are opening as the day progresses.

Amelanchier, acer and horse chestnut with new spring foliage.

Corylopsis has been really amazing this year – perhaps after the relatively mild winter.IMG_1335

I’ve cut back some of the stipa as an experiment – it was starting to lie down with the prevailing wind so hopefully this will encourage it on.IMG_1120

And this weekend I finished off preparing the long borders; year four and looking good.IMG_1342


Country of wind

The main feature of March has been wind. Constant wind. And not just coming out of our parliament. Storm Gareth was full of wind, ripping autumns’ dry leaves off the beech hedge (where do they ultimately go?). Today we have gusts of up to 50mph. Early blossom has been stripped and exposed trees have been bent. Sometimes in bed at night I expect to hear the slate roof tiles blowing off and sliding down; thankfully none so far this year. IMG_1327

There’s been a few developments; grass paths have been covered with chipped wood – eventually to plant up, reducing the need for careful lawn mowing. IMG_1319

A bunch of gum poles have been moved and cut to form a palisade of sorts for a bench – with the wind in mind I’m making shelter where I can.IMG_1316

A few of this month’s star performers:IMG_1350pulmonaria,


IMG_1351euphorbia myrsinites,

IMG_1324salix alba ‘Vitellina’,

IMG_1352and plum, this one is sheltered and has persisted right through the month of wind. March has been called the cruelest month, maybe it’s time to rename it the windiest. Let’s hope for a calmer future.

Blossom in the mist

Four warm sunny days in a row with more forecast – this doesn’t feel like the end of winter but it’s good all the same. Today provided treat temperatures – 16 degrees during the warm afternoon; but this evening it plummeted sending us fireside. IMG_1287

Thick mist flows down the hill at dusk, gathering on the flat ground where it hovers until morning. IMG_1300


Suddenly there’s fruit blossom – plums, apricots and almonds are all in flower. This seems very early; hopefully the cold evening air won’t be too damaging. Lots of bees around, perhaps they will pollinate them in time. IMG_1293


Sunset is around 5:30 now. Soon it will be light in the evenings after work and the long dark will be over for another year.IMG_1292

Early spring

A sunny Sunday in February is a great thing. Today was warm and bright all day. The sun coaxed so many early spring flowers out – along with lots of bees and 3 microlight aircraft which flew directly overhead in v-formation, lawnmowers in the sky. Sudden bright colour after the dourness of winter. Here’s some macro shots.

IMG_1043This is a tiny alpine crocus, its name unknown to me.

IMG_1046Hamamelis .x intermedia ‘Barnstedt Gold’

IMG_1049Hamamelis intermedia ‘Jelena’

IMG_1050Filling the area with delicious scent is this Sarcococca confusa

IMG_1072And more delicious scent from this Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Wonderful crocus are emerging in some very unlikely places

IMG_1055Some early Narcissus ‘tete a tete’


IMG_1065Chaenomeles japonica

Hellebores are still going strong one month on

IMG_1071I sat near these crocus and caught some rays – it almost felt like spring.


Sunshine and Erik

Storm Erik swept through last week, throwing fierce wind and rain around and giving us a good soaking on our way in to work. At least it wasn’t quite as cold as it has been. This weekend saw the back end of Erik; more wind and showers broken by surprising stretches of bright sun. Good weather for mulching. I spent Saturday spreading horse manure. I have a horrible suspicion that this manure is full of demon weeds – lets hope I’m wrong. The manure was supplemented with a mulch of mature wood chips – an instant make-over that I’m hoping will suppress the weeds.


Mulching is a sometimes delicate task – avoiding the early bulbs and growth that’s already starting to appear. These crocus are ready to go – I will miss them opening during the week.IMG_1274

These iris reticula are always a brilliant surprise, shockingly blue against the natural mulch of fallen beech leaves.IMG_1263

I thought these were Katharine Hodgkin, but they seem to be reverting to a darker blue – or perhaps they were always something else..IMG_1265

The dogwoods are at their best in the brief sunshine, shiny wet and improbably colourful.

And from a distance they’re like linear flames burning through the cold afternoon.IMG_1277

Another shower breaks and I rush to shelter in a greenhouse. I’ll not complain about the rain, it’s all welcome on a Sunday afternoon in February.IMG_1285


Cold for a few weeks now – down as low as -6 degrees in the polytunnel. A big fall of snow just up the road but nothing here apart from thick frost that persists all day in the shady parts of the garden. Today the sun shone, and although it only reached 4 degrees somehow if felt like a transition to something a little warmer.

IMG_1235 (1)White lines of birch against a blue February sky.

Earlier than last year, I decided that today would be stage one of the long borders preparation. This involves cutting down all the skeletal remains of last year’s growth. They’ve been looking great all winter – but in the bright light of a February morning they were starting to look a little tired. Here’s a before shot:IMG_1236This big clump of miscanthus will be moved in April when it warms up a bit – after 3 years it has outgrown its position. IMG_1239This year I used my new Niwaki herbaceous sickle – a brilliant Japanese tool made for harvesting rice and perfect for cutting perennials. I’m pretty sure that the whole process took roughly half as long as previous years – and I don’t feel any RSI in my wrists from constant use of secateurs. Highly recommended!IMG_1243Very quickly both sides of the borders were done, and five trips to the compost heap with  the trolley completed the job. The sun can now reach the new growth for the first time. Next stage will be to clear between each plant, removing weeds and dead leaves, then applying a layer of mulch. That will have to wait for the next sunny weekend – although the days are getting longer it was already late afternoon by the time I finished.IMG_1254Enough time for a quick springwatch walk to check on progress. Unfortunately no residents in the Snakesbury quack house yet..IMG_1250Really cold in the old orchard along the edge of the field – the sun is too low in the sky to reach here until March. There’s a plum that has blossomed really early in previous years, but no sign of life from it yet. February.IMG_1251



Mid Winter Fires

Another year, another winter – now halfway through. It’s been a mild winter generally but this week has been colder with snow forecast over the coming week. Hopefully not another beast, but some cold is welcome; combined with clear sunny days almost the perfect winter weather. I was surprised to see lots of activity in the garden, but then looking back realised that it’s not any earlier than last year.

img_1187Hamamelis glowing in the low midday sun.

img_1183This auricula is very early, the only one to flower so far.

img_1206Iris unguicularis has been flowering since mid December, a wonderfully resilient and rewarding plant.

Hellebores are always a very welcome sight – these are starting to spread by self-seeding.

img_1189Winter honeysuckle fills the whole area with delicate lemony fragrant loveliness.

Bare stems of spindle, dogwood and ghost bramble, owning their space at this time of year.

img_1223Twisted hazel catkins are an early sign of spring.

img_1224Viburnum tinus – sadly not fragrant but flowering none the less.

These are brilliantly fragrant though; chimonanthus, daphne and mahonia.

img_1217There’s a very cold buck sheltering on the patio.

img_1216And a layer of ice on the pond.

img_1202The elder is looking very upright (and due for a trim).

img_1233And finally, snowdrops – what more can be said!