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.

 

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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

 

 

The last of May

May has been an excellent gardening month – mostly warm, sunny days with some decent bits of rain at night. Perfection. Nighttime temperatures had been low, but this changed over the last week. The plants responded with rampant growth and flowers. The dominant colour is now blue – oh and red, orange, purple, green, yellow..hmm.

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Salvia
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Iris
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Sage
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Anchusa
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Geum
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Lupin
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Acer

Bulb activity is continuing through into the summer with gladiolus, iris and alliums.

 

Grasses are really starting to come into their own now.

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The wall-trained cotoneaster is looking wonderful in flower – we will need somebody to come and prune it soon.

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We are enjoying the view that was revealed by removing the massive bay tree, killed by the winter cold. Thank you Kate; you speak excellent chainsaw.

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Somebody said there was a garden show on somewhere, I think I will give that a miss and hang out here instead.

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More white..

Since mentioning how many white flowers there are I’m now seeing them everywhere. Here is an update on yesterday’s post; more white flowers of May.

Fruit and veg: (clockwise) quince, pea, loganberry, medlar, strawberry.

 

Viburnums: (clockwise) Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’, Viburnum opulus, Viburnum davidii

 

Various others: (clockwise) Fothergilla minor, Tritelia, Sorbus commixta ‘Dodong’, honesty, cow parsley

 

And more: (clockwise) Potentilla fruticosa, Cornus kousa, Camassia, Primula prolifera, Iberis sempervirens, Allium, Galium odoratum

 

And finally some blue: In memory of garden genius Beth Chatto who died 2 days ago, Corydalis flexuosa ‘China Blue’ – purchased from her nursery many years ago, travelled with us to Kent and flowers magnificently every May.

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The light in May

The mid-May days are really long – sunrise is about 5am and sunset about 8:40pm. The late spring light is still quite soft and sometimes tentative. Even though we have had some really hot days it cools down quickly after sunset and there’s thick dew by morning. The plants are soaking it all up – look away and they’ve grown by the time you look back. This is the race against time; to grow, to flower, to produce offspring before the darkness returns. The dominant colour in early spring was yellow. Now in late spring it is very much the time of the white flowers.

IMG_4039Yellow-stemmed dogwood Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’ with a backdrop of hawthorn

IMG_4023White flowered rhododendron

IMG_4038Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa backdropping a black elder Sambucus Niger

IMG_3996Common hawthorn Crataegus monogyna is spectacular this year – here edging out a lilac.

The smaller spring plants and alpines start early and by this time have reached – or passed – their peak.

IMG_4009This saxifrage Saxifraga × arendsii is really owning a spot in the gravel.

IMG_3999Bugle Ajuga reptans seems to have taken well to the gravel too.

IMG_4007Waterlillies covering the pond – too late for the fish all taken by a hungry/greedy heron.

IMG_4029Afternoon sun; 3pm and everything goes green. The light in May – it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Spring harvest

This evening we ate from the garden; spinach, parsley, purple sprouting broccoli in a Japanese-style stir fry with noodles, followed by the sweetest juiciest strawberries.

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The strawberries have been growing in the poly tunnel since January. Thankfully this under-cover cultivation has not resulted in those tasteless red fruit so often sold as strawberries. We have also had some really good rhubarb – its a good year for it.

There’s much to look forward to later in the year: broad beans, peas, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons, logan/black/blue/goose and raspberries, red and white currants, beans, kale, beetroot, chard, garlic, leeks, sweetcorn, tomatoes, aubergines, lettuce, kohlrabi, celeriac, courgettes, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Herb-wise there’s sage, rosemary, thyme, dill, coriander and basil. Fruit-wise there should be cherries, apples, pears, medlars, plums, damsons, figs and quince.

I’ll post more about these as they arrive. It’s very grounding to eat with the seasons; we are so grateful for this bounty of edibles.

Colour Time

After the hottest day in May – ever* – the garden is blooming to burst. The plants are serving full colour realness, with incredible hues, scents, textures and shapes all to attract whatever pollinators they can. Time to go in close for a look..and may the best flower, win!

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Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’
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Euphorbia polychroma
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Aronia melanocarpa
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Malus hupehensis
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Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’

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Euphorbia
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Centaurea montana ‘Purple Heart’
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Iris germanica ‘Nick’
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Papaver orientale
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Persicaria bistorta
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Aquilegia
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Borage
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Dodacatheon pulchellum

*in the UK..