March lives up to its weather lore billing

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Most people will be familiar with the old weather saying that March winds and April showers bring  forth May flowers. What we had this March was far more than just wind, with 2 named storms, gales and torrential rain throughout most of the month.   

It was with this in mind that I cast my mind back to March 1976  and what the weather was like here then. Thanks to the marvels of the internet I was able, courtesy of a website of the Met Office, to find everything I wanted to know detailing by region all the UK weather for the whole month in that year. Why was I curious to know this? On the 29 March I moved into Cilgwyn Lodge on a day that was mild and springlike if my memory  is correct. This was verified by the Met Office weather account for the whole month. Otherwise it was  a very similar month to this one, but with more frosts and snow than we have had this year.

This is an old picture of the Lodge in 1969 as it still was when I came here (apologies for the poor quality of the pics.)



And this is the latest we have from 2009


It is our second anniversary event, the first one last month being the 10th annivesray of our website. Living here for 43 years has given us  many special memories and friendships and is a move I have never regretted. It was a delight, and a major challenge to develop the nearly 1 acre garden  from a relatively blank canvas to the garden many readers will be familiar with. As I grow older I find it difficult to believe how we managed to do all this having had a 70 mile back and forward commute to our place of work in Swansea. We still get much pleasure from  the garden and surrounding countryside even though our respective health conditions have slowed us down in respect of garden management, but we nevertheless manage to stay on top of essential chores as much as we can with help as needed.



 An after storm sky early in the month. From howling gales and torrential rain to this


 Everything was suffused with pink


 From the sheep


 To Kit Kat who doesn't like to miss out on anything!!



 And this pic reflects the change in the weather during the last 6 days of the month


Brief weather records up to and including 30th

As mentioned in the heading, rain and wind was the predominant weather feature for 17 days of the month with rainfall levels of 5.75 inches. 

There were 9 dry days with sunshine.  Max 18C on 28th with the 2 previous days also clocking 17C and 16C Incredible for this time of year in our part of Wales

And 4 cloudy days

Seven frosts were recorded for the last 6 days of the period min -2.5 on 27th so unexpected late expenditure on gas for the polytunnel heaters!

All in all a good  growing month, the second in succession, reflected both in the garden and surrounding countryside. A far cry from this time last year when we just getting over the Beast from the east

Garden update

Thank goodness for  the fine February that gave us a chance to get on well with many outdoor jobs,  Moira completing her annual house and outbuiding painting well ahead of her normal time table.

The garden became so wet, that no further work on the borders could be completed, because walking would compact them. Spreading garden manure from a soaking wet pile is not a task to be undertaken lightly in these conditions. However  there was more we could do when we had that late spell of warm dry weather. it is good now however to have already completed all the pea and bean trenches After mowing the grass regularly last month, this has been on hold.

There is an upside to all  this in that we have been able, with invaluable help from stalwart friends  Bob and Annette, to all but complete repotting the overwintered plants in the nursery and polytunnels. It is fun finding many plants that we had forgotten that we had!

 Turning the plants out of the pots can sometimes give you an unpleasant surprise however, such as this invasion of a begonia rex tuber by vine wevil grubs - there was nothing left of the tuber! just the remains of the surrounding growing media.


 Some of the nursery areas



 A welcome tea break after a days potting.


The milder weather has brought on plant growth and now that the snowdrops have finished daffodils are filling the gaps. The shorter forms have stood up well to the gales but some of the older large trumpet forms collapse quickly and no sooner have they done so the slugs move in to devour the flowers before we can pick them.

 A favourite of ours is narcissus cultivar W.P Milner an old form much like the native  species  pseudonarcissus.


 A range of narcissus in the House Garden


As a final postscript to hellebore season, with long lived sepals (flowers), hellebores keep going, but are now beginning to show their age. This isn't the end of them as they still demand some time when the developing seed pods are cut off to prevent them  self seeding, often into the crowns of surrounding mature plants. It is also a good time then to scatter fertilser such as Fish Blood and Bone around the roots. Not everyone chooses to do this however but I would recommend it. Seed can be gathered from quality plants and sown in pots when they will germinate well and produce quality plants to flower in 2 to 3 years time exactly where you want them.

Moira filled this cart when dead - heading all the 300+ hellebores in the garden

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The last hoorah of hellebores 





Our friends at Farmyard Nurseries are major hellebore breeders and no seed is ever wasted there! Already they have pricked out last years seedlings that are now growing away strongly.


 Stock breeding plants


 This years flowers having been hand polinated and marked with pink wool


 There are over 60 polytunnels at Farmyard and always treasures to be found there like anemone pavonina



What's looking good?


Flowering shrubs are aways good value at this time of year and with mild weather and no sharp frosts, they have put on  a great show.

Magnolia loebneri


 Magnolia stellata an unknown pink flowered form

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 Viburnum carlesii with berry like buds that open to highly perfumed pink/ white flowers.


 With no severe frosts to contend with pieris have done very well


On the herbaceous front, it is euphorbias and pulmonarias that for me are currently the star plants. However there are flowers now on a range of epimediums,  and attractive woodlander, hacquetia epipactis.

 Euphorbia characias


 I thought ours were doing well until I saw this fantastic stand on a roundabout on the outskirts of Abergavenny




 Back home this smaller form, euphorbia myrsinites self seeded in a wall


 British native euphorbia robbiae at home in the wodland garden.

Just outside Monmouth,  off the A40, they grow well on embankments in large numbers


Blue pulmonarias, a mix of "Lewis Palmer", "Mawsons Blue"  "Blue Ensign" plus some interbred seedlings create an early bluebell effect in the woodland garden, which is packed with various shade lovers.





 Hacquetia epipactis.


 Saxifraga relative, mukdenia rossii needing shade and moist soil, unlike most of the family. Palmate leaves appear after the flowers, turning vibrant red in autumn.


The first spring clematis in the attragene group are just beginning to flowerThis is Clematis alpinum, to be followed later by c. macroptella and C. Koreanea  until the end of Spring.



It will be some weeks before others appear,and the plant in the pic will be covered with flowers Growth is promising too on epimediums,  erythroniums and brunneras in partcular.

And just a few days ago I was fortunate to find this fine mixture of pulsatilla vulgaris at  a local wholsale nurseryman friend


In the tunnels there are always some stars in that protected environment.



 Velthemia bracteata, a bulbous plant, all grown here from seed sown 4-5 years ago, give me great pleasure, having succeeded in growing them, and with that touch of elegance so early in the year- they started to flower just after Christmas.


 Clivia miniata on holiday in the large tunnel from the top greenhouse.


Wildlife and Countryside

As always in March there are masses of lambs in all our surrounding fields and they never fail to entertain with their joyous behaviour. It is good to see such activity in fields that just a few weeks ago were barren.



Such activity is not evident with the indigenous wildlife but 2 Mallards appear to be nesting at the edge of the Paddock Pond. Plenty of kites and corvids, but one thing that has changed since 1976 is the loss of the curlews and lapwings, that in the intervening years have become very rare. Nothing in the bird kingdom can for me, improve upon the the liquid calls of the curlews, and the peewit calls of the lapwings, that always spoke to me of the countryside of upland Wales  and we do so miss it.They used to nest every year in the field directly opposite the Lodge, and how easy it was then to take it for granted. We were so lucky to have experienced this in our early years of living here. We have also lost spring migrants such as sppotted and pied flycatchers and winter visitors like fieldfares and redwings.

Further from home on the road to Carmarthen 20 miles away there were 2 plant and wildlife events that really excited me:-

 A first sighting of little egrets, relatives of herons, all white with crested head feathers and now most likely resident year round. 

Secondly, Walking along the banks of the River Towy to take some pictures of them I chanced upon coltsfoot, a wildfower I have not seen for many years, growing in scrubby ground along the river bank, a preferred habitat. A relative of groundsel but looking like a more elegant form of dandelion. An attractive plant flowering from February until mid spring to a height of about 12 inches. It has considerable medicinal and confectionary qualities and is found in many countries around the world. To find out more go to



 The stretch of the r. Towy.


It was with some regret that as I approached the egrets,  feeding in a marshy field adjacent to the river. in spite of a cautious approach, they flew off before I had the chance to take any pics! With none to show you, the internet again came to the rescue



A couple of times a year my good friend Richard and I go off on what we fancifully call ""plant hunting" trips. Nothing like real planter hunters to far flung and out of the way places. We seek out nurseries within a days travelling time from our part of Wales, especially those that stock a wide range of plants with rare or unusual plants if possible. Gloucestershire was our destination in mid month. We managed to fit  in 3 nurseries, Tortworth Plants , and Pan Global Plants,    all of which satisfied our criteria for trips.

Pan Global is owned by Nick Macer who is a modern day plant hunter travelling extensively every year to bring back treasures for our delight! It is amazing how many plants we managed to pack into a small Berlingo hatch back. Richard is a master at packing plants and getting them home in one piece. He has a large Transit type van but doesn't usually use it for these  trips because he would never be able to constrain himself from buying more plants! A day spent in the company of a kindred spirit and very knowledgable plantsman is always a day well spent, and lighter pockets!

 The nursery at pan global is in the former walled garden of 15th century Frampton Court, not far away from where I used to live on Severnside






 Always something to interest to delight keen plants persons ( I hope that is sufficiently gender friendly!)





 And at Shady Plants our friends Tony and Sylvia have a wide range of shady plants including a very large collection of arisaemas of which Tony is an authority and major collector. There was only one in flower in the tunnels, it being too early in the year for most of them. An intriguing and challenging genus that after uncertain beginnings I have come to admire.



Finally the end of March is a time to look forward to with the clocks going on an hour, giving yet more time to keep working, as the garden begins to burgeon with new growth and much promise for the future. 

Have a good Easter and enjoy your garden and beloved plants.


Keith and Moira X