May

Cool nights and quite dry weather have resulted in an extended spring. Even though it was really warm and sunny today there’s a cold wind and forecast of 4 degrees tonight. Wonderful soaking rain a few days ago, thanks be. It is the year of the forget me not, scattered blue looking very considered and deliberate.

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May is the time of viburnums and euphorbia.

The pines are sending out long candles of new growth.

After the recent rain it is genuinely possible to watch the perennials grow – if you have the patience..

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Empty patches of soil have been filled with plant life and if you look away for too long weeds are trying to join in.

The shrub garden is really starting to take off; I’ve already started moving some of the larger ones out to the field.

And in the field the rabbits are hungry, digging around for new grass shoots – or is it just to drive me crazy. The hedgerow is looking very good, and we have starting talking about it needing its first trim later in the year.

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Spring flowers bringing me to a standstill: the amazing dodacatheon ‘shooting stars’

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The start of some wonderful irises, these Dutch Iris are ‘Alaska’

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But the stars performers of May are these bearded Iris, Iris germanica ‘Nick’.

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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_1345soldanella,

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.

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_1064Snowdrops

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.

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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

February

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!

Winter planting

I’ve been taking advantage of the mild weather – with soft soil after all the rain it is the perfect time for planting. Today’s session started at first light around 07:00, was interrupted by heavy showers all through the day, and ended at 15:40 sunset. In a productive day like today I can plant about 60 trees. So far this year I have planted about 190.

The process involves the removal of 2 square foot of turf, digging, dipping the tree in a gel suspension of mycorrhizal fungi, planting, wrapping the tree with a bunny guard and then staking it with a cane. This weekend I planted alder buckthorn, lime, wild pear, paper bark birch, silver birch and jacquemontii birch.

These are the jacquemontii birch, grown from seed this year. There’s 62 in this (future) thicket.IMG_1168

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Hopefully they will grow as fast as the silver birch which seem to do roughly 1.5m a year at Snakesbury.

This is a (future) avenue of small leaved lime.IMG_1170

Here’s some bird cherry, spindle and wayfaring trees.IMG_1176

It’s good to have these planted in December before the ground gets frozen. And although it’s more like a plastic woodland at the moment within a few years it will start to turn into a real woodland. The journey is wonderful and I’m grateful every day to be doing this.IMG_1166