The trees are coming into leaf like something almost being said, The recent buds relax and spread

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The words in the headline of this News item come from the poem "The Trees" by Philip Larkin which for me always seems most appropriate for the arrival of Spring and in particular the month of April. The exact timing of which depends  upon the weather. Last year it was later thanks to the Beast from the East, but this April a favourable mix of weather provided perfect conditions for all manner of plants to get going, the most significant of all being leaf break on trees and shrubs, transformed almost over night skeletal shapes. 

 The oaks are collectively earlier than ever, and in the old weather lore rhyme - oak before ash summer will be a splash (of rain), Ash before oak we  are in for a soak. Sadly the ash are dying in their hundreds all around us so no competition for years to come. Notwithstanding this,  I guess summers will be as unpredictable as ever!




 Acers are fabulous and the foliage of "Orange Dream" as beautiful as ever


 Not far away is this acer (name unknown) with red buds yet to open.


The poem is an interesting one to to read as it subtly juxtaposes the life of trees with that of us humans. The ageing process is a common feature of many of Larkin's poems as you may well know if you are familiar with his work. To read the poem "Trees" in its entireity go to


Interestingly I recently read  unatributed comments from a member of the Woodland Trust,  that in the UK, Spring is coming 2 weeks earlier than 30 -50 years ago, and autumn about a week later. Many trees such as oak, horse chestnut and sycamore are coming into leaf much earlier. That is certainly the case this month.


 Sheep take refuge under the spreading (horse) chestnut tree



In just a few days the tree was covered in its magical candle flowers


As always it has been a very busy month with much to do all over the gardens, all of which we have done much sooner than usual, having got off to a good start with fine weather in March. There are lawns to feed and regularly mow, ponds to clean out and refesh, borders to turn over and new plants to fill gaps, and  the vegetable garden to get ready for planting and sowing.

3 years ago this lawn in the House Garden was our biggest veg garden, but to save work we planted grass seed which has done very well- it should do as I always considered it the best soil in the garden!


 The dirty Paddock Pond - after a days work it is now pristine


The nursery is a scene of constant activity with many seedlings to pot on, more seeds to sow, large pots to split and replant, much of which is Moira's domain.




After a shock start to the month with snow on the first few days, and cold nights with a couple of moderate night time frosts, there was some welcome rain and warmer conditions building up to a crescendo of much hotter days which was most welcome, towards the latter part of the month.  Easter was very enjoyable in most parts of the UK. The one overall defining weather condition, as often is the case at this time of  year, was a consistent easterly air flow with some fairly strong and chilly winds at times

Weather Stats

Snow briefly on 3rd and  4th of the month

Sunshine days =15 

Rain = 5 

Changeable = 10

Temperatures:- Max25.3 on 21st

In all 5 other days over 20C

Min. -1.3 on 11th Only 2 frosts all month

Rainfall = 2"  In curiosity I researched the average rainfall for Llangadog and discovered April is the driest month of the year with an average of 2.32 inches so the month was not as extraordinary as I first thought.

 The stream that feeds the Paddock Pond, but not at present with such  low monthly rainfall



Land of the long white cloud a long way from NZ.



Dawn at 5.00am



Rising full moon over Cilgwyn Forest



 Garden Update

Preparing the veg. garden is always a key priority and once it is rotavated and the soil in a good  condition, sowing and planting can begin. We were even earlier than usual at the beginning of March when fine weather permitted planting of the onion sets which are now growing strongly. Sturon and Red Baron are our 2 favourites, although last year due to a mix up in the nursery where I bought them loose, I ended up not with Sturon, but with what turned out to be Stutgarter, a rather flat onion, both awkward to prepare  for cooking and difficult to string up tidily for storage


 There is something about the fresh smell of newly turned earth, which is akin to opening the doors of polytunnels and greenhouses first thing in the morning. It gives me a chill up the spine. Until a few weeks ago I didn't give this any more thought until Julian, a friend of ours, posted a blog on his website drawing attention to a word I had never previously heard of- Geosmin. As a  graduate from Cambridge University, Julian is always coming up with examples of oddities like this from the natural world.  To find out more information about Geosmin go to www:://  One final interesting point of note is that perfume companies have discovered the perfume potential of geosmin with some on line offerings priced in the region of £250.!!


 The vegetable beds are some of the stoniest in the garden - it is the same every year but incredibly we can still get good crops even of tap rooted veg like carrots and parsnips.


 Seed sowing begins.


For the first time since my illness, well rotted farmyard manure was spread onto the veg beds which have not produced the best crops for some years. This was made possible by Matt a friend who did all the heavy work. I hope that this will help  beneficial soil microbes to once again become  established.  







The last crop of parsnips "White Gem" was taken from the garden before preparing the veg beds



Since the latest spell of warm weather all the potatoes (salad types) and small seeds of root crops have been sown, peas and broad beans too; lettuce plants and Hispi cabbage are already growing well under fleece. More sowings and plantings will be made later for continuity, and runner beans, sweet corn and corgettes are growing away  in the tunnels for planting out when the risk of late frost has passed.


All flower borders are largely weed free following my regime of spraying them with weedkiller a couple of months ago, saving  much time consuming  and tiring work. They have also been turned over, where possible using a mini cultivator.




What's looking good?

The characias hybrid euphorbias continue to shine out with their fresh green bracts and at 5 feet plus tall make a teriffic statement. A nice contrast with this vibrant evergreen azalea some feet away.


 From a different angle to the previous pic we can see the emerging flowers of dwarf rhododendron "Bow Bells"  alongside the picket fence at the entrance to the house.


Mgnolias are still hanging onto a few flowers and are now greening up. Viburnums in variety are flowering well as are the atragene clematis I mentioned in the previous month's news.

Viburnum carlesii with a wide ranging perfume



This unique early leaf colour belongs to a cultivar " Sargentiana Onondaga". Followed by white lacecap flowers. One of several in the gardens as they do so well for us.



Grown from seed from The British Clematis Society a good few years ago  and labelled as an unknown alpinum form, it is an absolute gem and much admired for its large deep blue flowers and floriferousness



Along established clematis macropetalla "Markhams Pink'  is also a very floriferous flowering form in the atragene section of clematis. 



Podophylum versipelle "Spotty Dotty" an increasingly popular plant for humus rich soil in shade or part shade. Attractive pendant red flowers in late May. When established I find that It runs but not too invasively. The leaves around the plant are the remains of the mulch that protected it from from earlier frosts 



Bluebells and erythroniums



Possibly my favourite erythronium californicum "White Beauty" the so called trout lily.



 Hosta albo marginata has a special place in our ever increasing collection of hostas. It was in the garden here when we first arrived all those years ago. The original mother plant was split many times and  the divisons are scattered all over the garden. It is still one of the easiest and best of the green white edged forms of which there  is plenty of choice.



Part  of the woodland garden with brunneras to the fore, keeping the blue theme going after the pulmonarias and before the bluebells



Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris growing up the frame of a dead acer, and it is the first year it has produced such a crop of buds. Covering with fleece during  colder nights of the past 2 months has protected them.



I have praised the beauty of new leaves on shrubs and trees but some herbaceous will give them a run for their money. The gloriously ridged and felted leaves of veratrum is a good example, but it is very slow to flower so it has to do something to make up for it.This one has been in the garden for 7 years without flowering.



 Hosta like leaves on cardiocrinum giganteum are also attractive but unlike the veratrum once they are established like this offset, they flower well and when that flower dies another bulb will take its place. I am reliably informed by Joseph Atkin the Director of Aberglasney Gardens who has seen them in the wild in the Himalayas, that this process of renewal can be repeated for up to a hundred years!! 






Arisaema nepenthoides, the first in this fascinating genus to flower in the year.



Chloranthus fortunei,  a single family genus is an unusual plant for shade and humus rich moist soil. Priced at over £25 on some websites it is a plant to treasure so that is what I have done in the 6 years or so I have had it, molly coddled in a poly tunnel. I must bite the bullet soon and plant it in the garden this year



It is always a red letter day when peony "Molly the Witch" (easier to pronounce then its true name of mlokosewitschii)  For me it  rarely ever has more than a few flowers in most years. It is the palest lemon yellow flower which the picture does not fully convey. A true species form which stays in flower for just a day or so.! Always expensive to buy but much admired.



Wildlife and countryside

Wherever you look in fields, along the lanes and roadside verges, there are wildflowers to admire; wood anemones, primulas, daisies, ladies smock ( meadow pratensis) and dandelions, rank weed that they are, but they provide masses of colour which if you don't like yellow flowers is a big turn off!. Bluebells also share similar habitats showing that they don't only grow in woodland. On that subject the local woods that are normally full of bluebells, were quite slow this year in spite of weather favourable to them.


 Primroses on a drive to a cottage on one of our travels



Wood anemones on a bank just up the lane from us, flowering much better since the hedge was laid last year,


 A simple combination of daisies and dandelions on a green swathe in the village of Llanwrda. If you are not familiar with the Welsh language, try pronouncing that!


 No introductions necessary for these little beauties in a hedge. You have got to keep your eyes open on a walk.



 I guess that like many other gardeners  we have  native arums,  often called Lords and Ladies in common parlance, all over the garden here, many of which are weeded out before they have chance to seed around. But if you leave a few better forms ( they are fairly variable) you will be rewarded with flowers like this for a short while with a pale pink spathe and black spadix. This one right outside the kitchen window



Bluebells ringing the boundary of this oak woodland  just across the valley, about 300 yards from Cilgwyn


 After a slow start they are now everywhere you look - especially in woodland where you normally expect to find them. Looking through the canopy of oak trees like an impressionist painting.


 In a ditch alongside a country road



 Or in the middle of a field in full daylight


In a stellar cast, the real wild flower stars this year however have been a range of primulas, in a variety of colours in the case of primula vulgaris the classic and much loved primrose.

 Some of these are as white as they look which is a rgularly encountered colour break from the usual pale yellow


 Pink forms are more regularly encountered in a range of shades


 Having researched how this  pink colour break comes into being I have drawn a blank with several conficting opinions dicussed on the Internet. Some say they are cross pollinated by bees which have previously visited the wild primroses from cultivated forms in gardens, and others that it is due to a high presence of anthocyanins  red pigments in the cell structure of some plants.



The primrose mystery continues with this form on an embankment some distance down the A40 from the primroses above. The A40 over the years has turned out to be quite a wildlife and wildflower corridor and you need to keep your eyes open when driving along it, but only as a passenger of course!

But back to  the current picture below. It is a cross between a cowslip and a primrose. This is not an uncommon cross and usually has a single flower stem with pendant flowers on one side of the plant which this one clearly hasn't. This cross is called an oxlip with a biological name of primula elatior. I could not find a single example of this on the site.


 However in the case of the multi headed form it is a false oxlip with a botanical name of primula polyantha, which is totally appropriate as it represents a cultivated polyanthus, that long stemmed primrose of gardens and many municipal plantings, as they stand up tall to make a better impact



Sloe (blackthorn) flowering was magnificent all through most of the month, especially in hedgerows, thanks to those people who planted them many years  ago. In the line of another poem that came to mind " They planted well that we may do better". All this and sloes to harvest later in the year.







A real spring highlight is the first arrival of swallows which ocurred here on 10 April  when 6 flew over the gardens and they have been quite common since then. Although a couple of swallows are said not to make a summer, I am confident that 6 all at once is a good omen!!

A rare bird sighting or should I say sounding, was of a goshawk flying over the large fir trees early in the morning, where the magpies are nesting. Moira also saw the goshawk a day earlier in spectacular aerial combat with a couple of red kites which beat a hasty retreat.

Back to the "sounding" it was the goshawk call that alerted me to its presence. To learn more and hear the call that alerted us go to


At Easter with the warm spell of weather, butterfles were on the wing, orange tips and totoiseshells in particular, as were all manner of bees, attracted to the the flowers on lamium orvala an attractive member of the nettle family.

it is always the same whenever you want to take a pic of insects on a flower, they invariably take off just before you have a chance to click the shutter!!


 On this occasion  I was fortunate enough to stumble across an orange tip resting on a flower of cardamine pratensis , ladies smock. I never realised how beautiful are the undersides of their wings which you so rarely see when they are in flight.




Somehow we found the time to go to Aberglasney Gardens which I frequently rave about, April being one of the best times to go as there are many woodland and shade  areas  to explore, and many fine flowering trees and shrubs in wide variety too.

















At the beginning of the month we were invited to an event run by the Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire region of the National Gardens Scheme, and to sell our plants . Although we no longer open we still feel part of the NGS  family and are so pleased to be made welcome by all the current participants, and the County Organiser Jackie. The event was held at Llwyn Garreg, Llanfallteg, Whitland, Carmarthenshire  owned by our friends Liz and Paul who are superb gardeners of this marvellous 3 acre garden.

Moira was in charge of plant sales. She is more charming and persuasive than I am!










 Soldanella in a number of forms is a choice alpine for early spring.


 Paul and Liz have excellent soil,  and  such a good climate with protection from surrounding trees, that any plants we have that we struggle to grow are passed on to them. The main plant in this pic is euphorbia x pasteurii a chance find at Oxford University Botanic Garden believed to be a cross from 2 parents, E. stygiana and E.mellifera. It makes a shrub like specimen in excess of 7 feet with the usual euphorbia bracts in flower. It is always good to see plants that you have donated growing so well. We can't wait to go back when the flowers arrive




 Costant seed sowing over the years has produced this fine collection of massed fritillaries, in long grass and lightly dappled shade.


 A fairly recent addition to the garden is this Chinese bridge made in steel by Paul's brother.It straddles a little stream and and is an attractive entrance and exit to the main garden.



To visit this superb garden  which we highly recommend to you dear reader, visit the website for opening  times and directions at


The first RHS show of the year is held in Bute Park, Cardiff every year in the middle of April, and is one we look forward to as it is the closest RHS show to where we live. It is also an occasion to meet up with  our friends in gardening, many of whom we don't see that often so it is a very full day.  A smaller show than most RHS Shows it is in a lovely situation in the middle of Cardiff with  a good range of stallholders and other attractions with an empasis on a fun day to appeal to all age groups. Children are encoraged to paticipate through their schools with a wheelbarrow competition which is imaginative fun. There is always a great local atmosphere and a warm Welsh welcome.


Most pictures need no text but I have named a few of the plants on display








 A great time of year to show off primula sieboldii, this group from a National Plant Collection holder


 Arisaema sikokianum, really difficult to grow at the best of times, but quite an achievement in early April. Always expensive to buy!



Auricula theatre


 Many stallholders had this echium for sale  which at £25 or so prevented me from looking too closely into what its name is! lest I was tempted.


 Bill and Ben in their plant pots paraded all around the showgroiund




 Cute Teddy bears made from artificial lawn turf. Rather large to take home, with most visitors either on coaches or trains or having to park some way from the showground. And you would need deep pockets to afford them.



Thanks for reading and have an enjoyable  spring into summer and all the pleasures of the love of gardens and plants.


Keith and Moira X