A fine February

Thursday, February 28, 2013

At last, after a wait of almost a year, a long, dry and settled spell of weather!! Who cares it has been cold at times and often dull? It is so good to be able to plan jobs a week ahead and actually get them done! Full scale weeding completed (for the time being), all the dead herbaceous  haulm cut back and carted with some wonderful bonfires - not politically correct but who cares - nothing beats a good burn up at the end of a long day just as the stars come out. A couple of garden visits and a successful Llandysul Winter Gardening Weekend squeezed in amongst all the essential tasks.

The stage set at Llndysul; this plus a full programme of talks and a good range of stalls makes for a very pleasant day out - and all completely free!!



!2 nights of frost with a minimum of -5C and a daytime max of 12C. Rain in the earlier part of the month gave way to a mostly north easterly airstream from mid month. In my experience of livlng here for 37 years, February and March at Cilgwyn have often been our driest and most settled time of the year, especially when our weather comes from the east. Hope we don't pay for it later on this year.


Garden Update

Apart from all the work done in the borders, it has been a busy time in the nursey and polytunnels with many herbaceous plants coming into early growth. Most of those in pots under cover are already starting to grow away strongly which means an early start to potting on or splitting larger plants. In my experience it nevers pays to do this until there is clear evidence of good growth. Moira has made a start on this time consuming task which will take most of March to complete.

The  garden clear up in the final stages with haulms ready to be carted



The cold frames with plants bursting into life - note the new frame!!


Seed sowing and pricking out continues apace with over 150 packets of seed now sown from a variety of sources. I was so pleased earlier this month to be able to obtain seeds of hemerocallis crosses made by members of the American Hemerocallis Society. This is a very generous gesture on the part of gardening friends "across the pond" costing nothing to fortunate members of the British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society. If the success I have had with seed obtained in 2010 is replicated this year I will be delighted. There is such a wide gene pool in North America with over 55,000 registered cultivars and far better ripening conditions for seed, that there are bound to be some unique treasures lurking in those packets I lovingly sowed last week. There are some incredible names given to the cultivars and I particularly liked a cross of "Spoken in Parables" X "Rooted in Love". Such imagination!!

The February update. Time for pricking out soon.



What's looking good?

At present nothing can rival the hellebores which are having a great year. In the woodland garden and especially the Beech Hedge Walk they are putting on a tremendous show never looking better than when they are backlit by low evening which takes them to another level. If you can it always pays to plant them to create this effect. I have some good 3 year old plants in pots flowering for the first time in a good range of colours and forms  and some promisingly strong 1 and 2 year old plants coming on well for the next few years. They reward such patience as it is 3 years from seed to flower.

A wonderful lemon anemone centred form, the most difficult cross to make successfully.


Commercial interest seems to have moved towards helleborus x ericsmithii cultivars in a continually impressive flower colour and leaf range.  They can currently be found in all good nurseries and garden centres.This is the result of a complex 3 way cross between species forms of h. argutifolious, h. lividus and h.niger, first made by the legendary Eric Smith who in the 1960's and 1970's ran the Plantsmens Nursery in Dorset with the late Jim Archibald.

Snowdrops have flowered for a long time this year and from our recent trip to the Cotswolds are much earlier here. They have clumped up quickly in the Beech Hedge Walk since being transplanted just a couple of years ago. Some pulmonaris are out and the odd hepaticas too, which don't do particularly well for me.

A treasured hepatica nobilis one of a whole range of the ranuncullacea family in bloom in early spring (think also hellebores, celandines, anemones, clematis and aquilegias to name but a few)


No daffodils yet but the first ones are not far off. They are later than last year. A shrub doing well at the moment is cornus mas which is plastered in blossom looking remarkably like an acacia but having the benefit of being bone hardy. There is a scent but it is not overpowering.

Cornus mas in bloom.


On the veg. front we are still harvesting leeks, late sprouts (Titus) and Tundra and Alaske cabbage. Picked the last of the sweet peppers today - look at the pic if you don't believe me. 

Always something nice to see in the polytunnels too. Stars are the Belarina hybrid double primroses

This one is called tangerine and has a lovely bicoloured effect as the bloom ages



Wildlife and countryside

My "pet" robin (probably one of several in the gardens but please let me live the dream!) is everywhere I go. Since his new found fame he prefers to be called rob i am - he has told me that he was at the forefront of social media because he and his predecessors have been tweeting for many years. He spends many hours in the polytunnels enjoying the warmth, the regular supply of cheese destined for the mousetraps and listening to the classical music on the radio. Tweeting again comes in handy as he joins in with his favourite tunes (a bit like me!). Although small he is willing to help with tasks around the property.

rob.i.am helping to get the coal in!! (looking for worms more like - and he found some at the bottom of the pile!!)


Elsewhere there are lambs aplenty with no signs of the deforming disease that was predicted which is good news for my farmer neighbours. In the skies there are still plenty of kites but also more buzzards than I have seen for some years. The current stars are star -lings which have been gathering for the dusk aerial diplays which are one of the winter wonders in the natural history world. It's not just the flying displays but the noise they make with their wings and the murmering sound they make almost constantly.

Just as impressive on the ground a large flock of starlings searches for worms in the recently spread manure.


No frogs as yet probably because of the lack of rain and frosty nights but there is just one small patch of spawn in the paddock pond. As usual they will suddenly appear from nowhere.



We have been on the road this month with talks in Swansea and on the Gower and at the annual Llandysul Winter Gardening Weekend - all very enjoayable and more to come in March.

Yours truly in lecture mode at Reynaldston Gardening Club - topic Hellebores what a surprise!


We have also visited a few gardens the most amazing being at Gelli Uchaf, Rhydcemaerau a few miles away from us. Julian and Fiona the owners are fellow NGS openers and we have been wanting to visit for some time. We weren't disappointed; a superb woodland area with hellebores, reticulata iris and early scilla in perfect harmony raised to another level by the scent of numerous daphne bholua thriving in an environment ideally suited  to their demanding requirements. 11 acres of diverse habitats to explore with far reaching views Everywhere we went there was something to grab attention, including 100+ varieties of snowdrops, a wall of used car tyres containg flowers, fruit and vegetables - a novel take on raised beds - and some inventive organic ways of heating a large greenhouse.

Add to that a 17C Welsh longhouse, a gallery of fine artwork and a fascinating insight into moths of the UK which are a speciality of Julian and Fiona, a really interesting and original couple. If you want to see a very different and highly idiosyncratic garden and for more information visit their website at www.thegardenimpressionists.wordpress.com Great blogs too!

The woodland garden with reticulata iris and scillas in a pleasing colour combination backed up by carfully selected dark hellebores.



The Welsh longhouse



We also went to Old Rectory, Duntisbourne Rous, near Cirencester, Glos the home of Mary Keen, the well known garden writer and her husband Charles, which is one of the earliest gardens to open each year for the National Gardens Scheme, which is always risky. With snow and severe frosts on the Cotswold escarpment for some weeks the garden was not as advanced as it would usually be. However the setting is magical as are the views down the valley and the adjacent old church. There was a warm welcome, good conversation and a lovely log fire to take tea by. 

The view across the garden to the church



Finally a few lines from Rudyard Kipling I read the other day which for me sum up all the hope that gardening can bring at the start of each year:

"So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray,

 For the glory of the garden, that it may not pass away"


Happy Gardening!!