It is increasingly recognised that gardening has a positive impact on our well-being, bringing both physical and mental benefits, but what about the entertainment value? Who needs access to hundreds of television channels (or perhaps even a television at all) when one has access to the ever-changing view of our gardens? They have all the colour, drama, episodes and repeats that television offers (with the added excitement of our own starring role!) and even, in the ability to stand in the greenhouse and watch our seedlings grow, provides its own version of the iconic BBC potter’s wheel interlude… Fringe benefits indeed!
Also fringed are the tulips in today’s vase. Four out of the five stems were billed as ‘Hemisphere’ which can develop flecks and streaks but is not a fringed tulip, whilst the fifth and slightly larger one is a random ‘Huis ten Bosch’ which had reappeared in the shrub border, similar and correctly fringed:
Joining the tulips in the vintage glazed jug are stems of polygonatum or Solomon’s Seal from a clump I plan to drench with a neem oil solution in a bid to prevent them falling prey to sawfly, to which they have not yet succumbed. The simple prop is a set of hair clippers, a useful purchase during lockdown to tackle the fringeless hair of the Golfer and myself. After initial tentativeness, we both became tolerably efficient at the task!
It was not an easy task to choose blooms for today and I did so want to share the first of my Winter Sunshine sweet peas, but they will be around for longer than the tulips and that was the deciding factor in the end. Have you blooms or other material in your garden you would like to share with us in a vase or other container today? If so, just leave the usual links to and from this post.
The garden is full of precious gems, like the amethyst, rubies and rhodochrosite (tulips Seadov’ and ‘Purple Flag’ and bellis) above, and lapis lazuli (bluebells) below:
Rose quartz (dwarf Rhododendron ‘Snipe’):
Garnets (Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’):
One of many forms of Jasper (Tulip ‘Quebec’):
And the last of this small selection, malachite (Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’):
There is a whole treasure chest of jewels to be found, but today I have shared just six of them to join with Jon the Propagator’s weekly meme.
What an exciting time of year this is in the garden, not that every day is not a joy to ramble round it and observe its nuances, both the bigger picture and its constituent parts. The sun is shining again today, casting deep shadows in places, but the sprinkling of rain in the last few days has been very welcome, refreshing the dry ground and its occupants, although in truth it will have done little more than dampen the top few millimetres.
Let’s ramble together round the end of April garden, starting with the main view from the house (above) and the adjacent streamside area and shrub border below, the latter viewed from both directions. The bright white plant next to the bench is Choisya ‘White Dazzler’ and has a delightful fragrance, and the red foliage and blossom in the top right belong to crab apple ‘Royalty’.
Moving on to the woodland, the fritillaries are all but over but the wood anemones are still going strong and the bluebells and wild garlic are now in bloom:
From the bothy at the end of the woodland you can look out over the main borders which are also shown from ground level, looking from the back of the sheds. The first astrantia, allium and aquilegia are now in bud here.
From the same point, we can turn slightly and see the clematis colonnade and the woodland edge border, the latter also shown from the other direction. Today I particularly noticed the difference the absence of the oak tree makes, with much of this bottom end of the garden now receiving more direct sunlight.
Contents of the three ‘bold’ borders are beginning to bulk up and in a couple of months it will be clearer whether or not their ongoing overhaul has been in any way successful. However, borders I am satisfied with will probably remain a perpetual thing to strive towards!
In the working greenhouse, a number of the Winter Sunshine sweet peas are now blooming, bringing fragrance to my potterings amongst the seedlings and dahlia tubers, whilst outside planting has begun in the cutting beds:
The blue & white border awaits a later inspection too, but is currently filling up satisfactorily, whilst roses in the rose garden still look healthy and untroubled by pests or disease:
Through the clematis colonnade towards the main borders
Snowdrop foliage and hellebores still dominate the snowdrop border, with white scilla and muscari now displaying their blooms
Looking towards the house, the wisteria will be coming into leaf over the next month, but sadly those blessed wood pigeons are likely to have put paid to any chance of blossom, a situation that I will do my best not to allow to happen again:
The Coop is currently much emptier than it has been over the winter months, but pots of summer flowering bulbs like eucomis and calla will soon be moved up onto the staging; so far new growth is only evident in a couple of pots, but hopefully that situation will gradually change. Behind the Coop, the Coop Corner still makes a pleasing statement, although the later-than-usual flowering Clematis armandii is on the wane.
I have been posting videos to tie in with this end of the month summary for over a year now, and they certainly give a more rounded picture of the garden. Don’t forget you can also see a map and aerial photos of the garden under The Garden tab above, although the map needs updating and there are additional aerial photographs to upload!
Today’s vase is filled with a medley of some of spring’s finest blooms and foliage: Tulip ‘Purple Flag’, Narcissus ‘Bridal Crown’, faded Hellebore ‘Harvington Double Lime’, Leucojum ‘Gravetye Giant’, cowslip, bluebell, anonymous wallflower and appleblossom, with fresh new foliage of epimedium and Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’. I was delighted to find, when writing this post yesterday evening, that the wallflower did indeed have a delightful fragrance, not previously evident.
As is often the case, a photograph from above gives a more complete picture of the contents. Curiously, when I first saw this photo it gave the impression of a two-dimensional cut-out, like a Victorian paper ‘scrap’!
Accompanying the vase is a square of fabric similarly highlighting spring blooms, a Sanderson’s pattern called ‘Salad Days’. In the early ’90s I was fortunate in winning second prize in a Good Housekeeping competition, my choice of £3000 of Sanderson’s products (fabric, wallpaper, curtains, carpets, etc) – quite a difficult choice to make as £3000 went a very long way back then, even from a company of this calibre! This fabric and a matching wallpaper with a red background were used in the dining room of my previous marital home (where the majority of the money was spent), but half a roll of the fabric and other residual things did make it here. I have always been very much one for wallpaper and am still exceedingly fond of small flowery patterns (think 1970s Laura Ashley), very hard to find these days except from eyewateringly expensive ranges.
After a lean winter for many gardeners, finding material for vases will be getting easier and perhaps you will choose to seek something from your garden to pick and pop in a vase or jamjar this week to join us for IAVOM. In that case, please leave links to and from this post so that we can share in what you have found.
As April gallops towards an end, I couldn’t let it escape without celebrating the glorious array of blooms that it brought, starting with Magnolia ‘Susan’ above, whose dark purple buds are just beginning to unfurl. Last year it bloomed prolifically for the very first time and it looks as if this season there will be a similar display.
There are still a handful of daffodils around, but once the tulips begin to appear they seem to step back to allow their bright replacements to take centre stage. Most of my tulips are in pots, as you can see below, but there are clumps of species varieties in the main borders too along with an occasional hanger-on of the larger varieties.
The woodland is at its peak, with wood anemones and primroses flourishing, bluebells just beginning and fritillaries only just on the wane (and much-reduced quantities of wild garlic!):
In the special snowdrop border the snowdrops are now a distant memory and masses of foliage, but leucojum, muscari and scilla have taken over:
Hellebores bloomed relatively late this year but have been glorious, and although past their peak still make an impact in their more faded state, accompanied by fresh and pristine new foliage:
Pulmonarias are a stalwart of April, and along with hellebores I am trying to boost the number of them in the garden. Here are just a selection:
Rhododendrons, although not to everyone’s taste, always make an impact when they bloom, largely because of their density of blooms. ‘Christmas Cheer’ began flowering a few weeks ago but there are now others joining in too:
Other trouble-free spring stalwarts here are (clockwise from top left) self-seeded cowslip, Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ (blooming much later this year than previously), various brunnera and long-flowering Arabis ‘Old Gold’:
Alpina clematis are wonderful for April/May blooms and here we have (clockwise from top left) C koreana and C alpina ‘Pamela Jackman’, ‘Constance’ and ‘Foxy’:
In the Coop there are still hippeastrum in flower:
I showed the first appleblossom on Wednesday, the blooms now gradually spreading over the whole tree, and this blossom is joined by crab apples ‘Evereste’ (still in bud) and ‘Royalty’, the latter’s blooms always camouflaged by the dark foliage. Somehow appleblossom seems to mark a turn in the year (often heralding the end of regular frosts) as we head into May and the run-up to summer with its inevitable cornucopia of blooms that will be upon us before we know it. Thank you April for paving the way!
Tasks in the garden currently seem to be expanding to fill the time available so squeezing in time to write a post has not been easy, but I thought I would share a few spring surprises for Six on Saturday, the meme hosted by Jon the Propagator. I expect most gardeners will have been similarly busy, but if you pop over to his blog I am sure there will still be some other Saturday Sixes to enjoy.
Change comes thick and fast in a spring garden and even though we may be expecting certain things to reappear, their timing can take us by surprise – and some things we may just completely forget about from year to year. I certainly forget about the pretty and startlingly blue omphalodes, O cappadocica ‘Cherry Ingram’ (above) and this still tiny and unassuming spring pea or spring vetch, Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’:
There is no way I could have forgotten about my greenhouse sweet peas, whose buds are now opening and providing their typical sweet pea fragrance when I bring my nose close to them – and it won’t be long before the fragrance wafts through the whole greenhouse.
Also in the greenhouse are newly emerged seedlings of Cardiospermum halicacabum (shan’t be remembering that name in a hurry), or ‘love-in-a-puff’, the seeds of which I bought on impulse. The plant climbs to around 10 feet and produces green balloon seedpods, each containing a black seed marked with a white heart – I am not quite sure where I shall grow them when they are ready to plant out, but at the moment I am intrigued by the fact that the seedlings emerge not just with seed leaves but with with a proper leaf too, although botanists may tell me that it is not actually a true leaf at all…
Cutting back old epimedium leaves always seems, like cutting cornus stems, a leap of faith and it is something I only began doing a couple of seasons ago but very quickly appreciated the benefits of. Leaving almost just bare soil, it seems remarkable that within only a few weeks fresh leaves will appear, quickly providing ground cover again, and with them the flower stems. I don’t think I had seen flowers for years until I began cutting the old foliage! This variety is probably Epimedium ‘Frohnleiten’:
I must have missed cutting every single patch of it before, as today I noticed these red flowers which can’t have seen the light of day for many years and which I had certainly forgotten were there – there will no doubt be a label in there somewhere, but they are probably just plain E x rubrum:
Late summer last year I realigned the main borders in the garden, during the course of which at least half the existing contents were removed and temporarily potted up, before being judiciously replaced or rejected. The coming summer will show how successful the changes were, and regular inspections have been made to assess progress of both new and old inhabitants. However, I seemed to have mislaid a plant, Trifolium rubens or ornamental clover, during the process and trusted it would still emerge at some stage, perhaps missing its label – but blow me down, this week there it was, in almost exactly the same place it had been prior to eviction, complete with label and looking perfectly perky!
It would be easy to think there was more blue around in the spring garden than at other times of the year, with muscari, forget-me-not, hyacinth, pulmonaria, brunnera, Anemone blanda and the like, with bluebells and aquilegia poised to join them in a matter of weeks, but that’s probably not the case. I have tried to ensure there are blues to be found in the summer garden too, and am pleased to have some established delphiniums and echinops and a handful of other perennials to provide splashes of blue later in the year, with sowings of clary sage ‘Oxford Blue’, Cornflower ‘Blue Ball’ and Silene ‘Blue Angel’ to make an annual contribution. I have even managed to successfully germinate larkspur this year and can see tiny specks of green on a sowing of Eustoma (lisianthus) grandiflorum ‘Echo Blue’ which is very exciting!
My little bunch of spring blues somehow seemed more attractive as a handheld posy than in a vase, but at least this grey glazed Prinknash Pottery jug sets them off in the best possible way, the shape of the jug reflecting that of the posy. The simple contents comprise sprigs of forget-me-not, similar blooms but very different foliage of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, unlabelled muscari and tightly furled foliage of aquilegia.
Accompanying the vase as a prop is the Blues Band’s ‘Scratchin’ on my Screen’ CD, highlighting my enjoyment of blues music which was triggered around 15 years ago. A work colleague was about to begin flying lessons, having challenged herself to do something she had always fancied trying, and following her lead I was motivated to learn to play the drums, having been tapping out rhythms for many years. I continued lessons for a
few years and had my own drum kit, during which time the Golfer and I went to a concert (‘gig’, in modern parlance!) in our local town to see Manfred Mann; as well as playing their 60s hits they also played some of their ‘B sides’, introducing me to the ‘Blues’, a genre I previously knew nothing about and grew to enjoy in its many different forms. Paul Jones of Manfred Mann went on to form the Blues Band and we have now seen them perform many times too.
Perhaps there will be more musical references in other Monday vases today – thankfully no earworms to haunt us with mine! If you would like to share a vase with the wider IAVOM community, please leave links to and from this post in the usual way.