Springtime in Paradise

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just when you thought it just couldn't get any better this Spring, along comes April and blows us away. No frosts, little rain, warm sunny days and mild nights. What we dream of every year but so rarely comes true. Without doubt the best month of the year!

All the bad thoughts of the extreme winter banished in a flash before the losses become clear as the year progresses but already there are some notable survivors like my beloved impatiens tinctoria, some salvias from Mexico that should be tender and the long established dahlias in the Red Border which are showing good growth. The blossom on trees and shrubs is incredible and so early. The viburnums notably x caricephalum, rhytodophyllum and plicatum are 3 weeks earlier than normal.

Spuds planted in the last week of March are up and growing away strongly and broad beans started in the poytunnel are already in flower. And don't mention the grass on the lawns - it is determined to give the new mower a serious workout!



Weather Report

With just 5 days to go it is looking possible that we will have no frosts in April for the first time I can remember in the 35 years I have lived here (Fingers crossed - we mustn't get to too compacent)

A max of 24.5C last Saturday and a min of 2.9C mid month. Just a few showers so the ground is quite dry and we have started to water the veg and fruit garden and the particularly well drained sections of the garden. Light winds for the most part generally from the easterly quarter. The mild weather has allowed us to move outside a lot of overwintered plants from the tunnels and frames freeing space for pricked out seedlings.



Garden Update

Finished the border clean up and done all the weeding - very few weeds. Whether this is due to the very cold weather, the lack of rain in April or our addiction to eradicate weeds at an early stage over the years I can't say but it certainly makes the Spring clear up a lot easier! Remember one years weed is said to be seven years seed.

We have taken the opportunity to move some larger plants around the garden to more suitable locations and started to refresh some of the longer established borders. This year we are also trying to cut off all the hellebore seed heads before they shed their seeds. I always advise other gardeners to do this in my talks but must confess but I don't always practise what I preach.

We continue to keep up with sowing the last of the seeds (mostly tender stuff) and prick out earlier sown seedlings, having sown around 300 varieties since January thereby proving I am totally nuts!! Relatively few failures this year although there are always a few stragglers which may need some stratification or especially in the case of clematis a lot of patience. Some species forms especially in the viorna group have been recorded as taking up to 3 years to germinate and another 3 to make flowering plants. If nothing else it gives you a reason to live and such a thrill when they finally do flower and as ever with seed sowing you never know quite  what the flowers will be like because they rarely come true. All part of the fun and magic of seed sowing and why I love it so much. As Gertrude Jekyll once famously remarked "The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies"



Whats looking good?

Almost everything, except the stuff that died in the winter! I really have moved on from this and am looking forward again - the chlorophyll in my veins is rising rapidly!. The lawns have benefitted from the turf replacement regime we have conducted over the last few years although the cockchaffer grubs are doing their best to ruin it again. We have already had some May Bugs on the wing on the recent mild nights - so early like everything else this month.

The anemones, hellebores. and aquilegias in succession, stalwart members of the buttercup family, have been superb but best in the family have been the early clematis: alpinas, macropetallas and just now clematis koreana "Blue Eclipse"


Talking of blue and I mean serious in your face blue, nothing at the moment can compete with the Himalayan blue poppies the form known as meconopsis Lingholm Hybrids, so far proving to be truly perennial unlike many in the group. Such big flowers too, up to 4" across.


Rheum palmatum atropurpureum with huge red rhubarb leaves up to 3 feet is quite a sight and will continue to grow until it sends up a huge 7 feet flower spike by early June. Alongside this and in front of a mature shrub physocarpus "Darts Gold" there is a lovely bleeding heart from the Pope's who were at Hadspen House in the 1980's and 1990's which picks up the golden foliage of the physocarpus just beautifully. Normally it is prey to late frosts which spoils it but not this year.


Hostas heve really enjoyed the weather with no frost to damage their delicate emerging leaves and no slugs or snails because it has been so dry. One of the best is "Golden Oriole" which emerges yellow unlike many yellow forms which colour up later in the season. They need more sun than most hostas.


Plenty of other plants just too numerous to mention all revelling in the sunshine and the fact they have survived for another year. Just like us really!




The final phase of the amphibian trilogy unfolded this month. Forget the frogs and toads - the newts are back in town! I was thinking about a title like "Newts on the P---"  but thought better of it not to offend my more sensitive readers. They (the newts!) do seem to enjoy spawning time and are big show offs (we only have common newts) but they dress up in all their finery, only the males, and display their swimming prowess before looking for a mate. To be honest I only see them showing off but they are far more discrete in their love making techniques unlike the exhibitionist frogs and toads who will do it anywhere!! Hope all their tadpoles do well to provide for future generations. The pond is now full of them.

Tomorrow is a big day for the Paddock Pond when we receive a delivery of rudd and carp to replace all those we lost in the winter and we can't wait to have the fish back again. Something has really been missing not seeing their colour and movement in the pond.

Pied flycatchers are back in their nesting box again, busy little birds in their black and white waiter suits. Some redstarts too and recently the swallows in good numbers - it really does feel like spring now.

Orange tip butterflies on the wing since early April and the odd dozy tortoiseshell butterfly, and a small blue butterfly I saw briefly yesterday but not for long enough to name

The bluebells in the woods are wonderful and there is nothing like them for atmosphere and magic, and as there are more of them in the UK than anywhere else in the world we should be proud of them and perhaps they should be our national flower?




One talk this month at Bronwydd Gardening Club completed our very enjoyable winter/spring season which gives us a chance to become visitors ourselves.

We went to a good Rare Plant Fair in Quenington, near Cirencester earlier this month and now is certainly the time to visit these Fairs. Aside from Rare Plant Fairs ( www.rareplantfairs, co,uk), there is good one on Moday 2 May at Hergest Croft, Kington, Herefordshire (www.hergestcroft.co.uk) and one of the biggest of the year at Hampton Court, near Leominster on 5 May with over 80 stalls in aid of the Red Cross (www.hamptoncourt.org.uk) Our friends Tony and Sylvia will be attending all these fairs with their tremendous range of rare and unusual woodland plants - go to their web site at www.shadyplants.com


On the way back through the Cotsowlds from Quenington we took a detour through the lanes and were delighted in old beechwoods to come across clumps of helleborus viridis occidentalis growing amongst bluebells and wild violets, a charming combination. Nature does it best even at times of such richness in the garden.


Hellebores in the woods. Said to have been introduced by the Romans and there were lots of them in the Cotswolds as evididenced by the ruins of their villas.





Finally, enjoy your gardens and good luck with all your ventures and please do come to our Open Day on Sunday 24 July from 1 - 5.00 pm. Let us hope we have a summer this year to remember for all the right reasons!

Sorry for the lack of pictures this month due to technical difficulties and extreme tiredness!!