Spring has sprung at last!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

After 2 weeks of dry, sunny weather but very cold nights with minima of -6C, the latter half of the month was much warmer which has at last brought on the hellebores very well and the first of the narcissus, mostly "February Gold" and "Jetfire" - good reliable cyclamineus hybrids. The lawns too have started to green up after being yellow for months; they were scarified and fed and weeded in the last 2 weeks and soon the mowing season will begin in earnest for the next 7 months! The vegetable beds were rotovated in the dry weather and after all the frost we have a lovely tilth ready for sowing as soon as the soil warms up and the rains stop. This time last year we had already planted all the spuds except the lates.

Seed sowing has continued in earnest and we have already sown over 300 varieties of seed with about 75 of the more tender varieties left to sow. Of particular interest are the hemerocallis seeds that were donated by members of the American Hemerocallis Society as part of their outreach programme, many of which are new crosses. They have germinated well in gentle heat and it is exciting to anticipate the flowers in a couple of years time. We have potted on all the overwintered perennials in tunnels and frames and had surprisingly small losses except for hollyhocks and kniphofias. We hope to have plenty of plants in a wide variety for such a small nursery for sale to our visitors this summer.

Wildlife too is on the move with the Paddock Pond full of frogs and toads and plenty of spawn already. The herons take a big interest in this but  they seem to have very little impact on tadpole populations. We saw our first hedgehog last night just before dark and he looked well after a hard winter. He readily took some dried food before creeping off to sleep  under the big laurel. Red kites have been much in evidence this month with up to 4 whistling to each other all day long in the tall willows at the bottom of the garden. In the 34 years I have lived here it is amazing to observe how their numbers have grown - they are now more numerous than buzzards, previously the main bird of prey in these parts.

We have been busy with talks to garden clubs this month and a memorable Gardeners Question Time in Llandovery which was a great success. Three more talks to come in April and one in May. They are most enjoyable and a chance to make new acquaintances and a good opportunity to advertise the Gardens to a wider audience.

Finally we had the great pleasure this month of meeting Tom Hart Dyke from Lullingstone Castle in Kent at The National Botanic Garden in Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire. He gave a fascinating talk of his 2009 plant hunting  travels in South America with references back to his incarceration by guerillas in Columbia in 2000. A fabulous plantsman with great stories to tell. For more information go to www.lullingstonecastle.co.uk

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is a great place to visit at any time of the year but especially so in early spring when the mediterranean garden in the Great Glasshouse looks at its absolute best. The South African garden with proteas and leucadendrons in full bloom is simply stunning and is a "must see". Tom considers it to be one of the finest in the UK Go to www.gardenofwales.org.uk