Winter makes a brief return

Sunday, February 26, 2012

As soon as February came in winter returned with a vengance for 10 days with continuous night frosts but fortunately no snow. It was still quite a shock to the system after a mild January but by Valentines Day it was warmer again. No serious damage was done in the garden and I had the chance to cover the more tender plants with horticultural fleece. I am desperate to see my euphorbia characias in flower and they are not far off now so fingers crossed! With the warmer weather mid month the frogs and a few early toads were back on the road making a beeline for the Paddock Pond. Like the frogs we too have been back on the road with the re-commencement of our gardening talks


 Frogs having made it by road, in the Paddock Pond, their eyes lit up by the LCD lamp.




Us on the road at Brecon and District Horticultural Society  in The Castle Hotel, Brecon, before the start of the talk on Hellebores with some nice hellebores for sale.




Ten continuous nights of frost from 1st to 10th February with a min of -10C, more than we have had all winter so far. Dry in that period but in the second part of the month it has been mild, moist (the Welsh for wet!!) and cloudy on the few dry days with a of max 14C. Bird song has been such a delight on the warmer days.They feel the sap rising as we do!!


Garden update

The dry but cold weather at the beginning of the month meant that I could get on with outdoor jobs, including making safe all the wooden steps in the garden by covering them with galvanised mesh. I also repaired all damaged steps and the rotting lawn edgings in various parts of the garden. In the last week I have cut back all the herbaceous borders, a task for various reasons I always leave until this time of year. Next there is the mammoth task of gathering up all the cuttings for the bonfire. I have also sunk secure posts to support the sweet pea wigwams which regularly blow over in summer gales, spoiling the show.

Most of our ordered seed has now been received including that from the various societies we belong to and so far 80+ pots have already been sown - only another 250 to go!!. Yesterday I was so pleased to receive a large box of seeds in a wide a variety collected by the late Jim Archibald from all corners of the world, a most generous gift from his wife Jennie. Jim was one of the most respected plantsman of the last 100 years and I am so pleased to have been a recipient of some choice seed from many rare or hard to come by species of mostly perennial plants. I hope I can do them justice.


The seed pots nestled down on the hot bench in the small polutunnel and many are showing signs of life - the best part of gardening and the most exciting!



What's looking good?

As always the beech hedge walk and the woodland area in the Paddock Garden are the focus of all attention. No prizes for guessing the star plants - hellebores;what a surprise! It is no secret how much I love them from that first day I came to Cilgwyn Lodge on 29 March 1976 when there was only one in bloom. I hadn't seen them before. It started a love affair  that has never waned with well over 200 in the gardens. It is said that when you really fall in love you never forget it! They don't seem quite so floriferous this year in spite of a regular feeding regime with manure and fish, blood and bone fertiliser.  


Honestly the picture doesn't do it justice. OK I may be a poor photographer but the dappled shade seems to confuse the camera - the border is far better  than this but I have yet been able to catch it on camera


 The daffodils (narcissus) are coming into bloom and my favourites are those from Division 6 of the narcissus classificaton, the cyclaminius hybrids. They are robust. reasonably dwarf about 12 - 15 inches and therefore fairly weatherproof, naturalise well and all have a long trumpet and swept back petals (perianth). There is also a good range of them to choose from


This is the species form not much more than 4 inches in height but giving its unique form to a good range of hybrids



 Two hybrid forms "Peeping Tom" in the foreground and one of the best "Jet Fire" behind it. The flowers are at least four times the size of the species form


They are planted with other spring flowering plants including primulas, pulmonarias, anemone blanda, grape hyacinths and snowdrops. Snowdrops have had a great year and stayed in flower for a long time because of the colder weather earlier in the month.

It is good to see so many herbaceous plants elsewhere in the garden coming into growth, a bit too early perhaps, but they are all tough and should withstand any further cold snaps. Monardas in particular have spread incredibly and will need thining providing plenty of plants for the nursery. It's always a nervous time waiting to see what has come through the winter and this year the challenge will be very different from last year with wet being the major problem.

 In the polytunnels there are some pelargoniums in bloom one of the best of which is P.echinatum the so called "sweetheart" pelargonium on account of its white flowers spotted with red hearts. A spiky species form from a tuberous root stock.

Here it is - what a beauty!



Wildlife and countryside

The frogs will always be a highlight of February and this year there seem to be more than ever. But I said enough about them last year and they just do what comes naturally. 

On the warmer days there have been lots of bumble and honey bees on the heathers and recently it was a surprise to see some red admiral butterflies too. They have overwintered this year although how long they will survive, and if they get to breed is anyone's guess. 

If you look for them there are a few early celandines in the hedgerows below the hazel catkins which are always one of the first signs of spring.

The surest sign of all of course are the lambs now filling the fields all around us and so far it has been a good year for them. They lead a short but seemingly happy and natural life.


A good Dorset ewe but not all the lambs are hers - they are very sociable from an early age!




Some really enjoyable talks this month starting with Monmouthshire Group Hardy Plant Society, then Brecon and District Horticultural Society, Cothi Gardeners and finishing with the Llandysul Winter Gardening Weekend. All talks well received and some useful feedback. Over the years we have met some great people from doing our talks and become friends with many clubs and societies throughout South and West Wales. More talks to look forward to next month.

I was very pleased earlier this month to be asked to speak at 2 shows at the Royal Welsh Showground later this year. one at the Spring Gardening event in late May and the other at the main Show in late July. More details on these events later.

In mid month we went to Caerleon near Newport for the Alpine Garden Society's first show of the year with some great exhibits and some special nurseries in attendance tempting us to part with our cash (not difficult!!)


Some treasures from the show




 I am no galanthophile (snowdrop nut!!) but occasionally I see one that is substantially different to make me want it. This is one called "Corrin" and very choice it is too but probably unobtainable unless you have deep pockets!!




Showing the range of alpines on display and the interest generated




A lovely bowl of white cyclamen coum in the white form. This one was grown from seed in 2001



On Saturday 3 March there is the first of the new plant fairs at Aberglasney Gardens near Llandeilo from 10.30 am to 4.00 pm. These will be regular events on the first Saturday each month until October and as they will be held in the car park there will be no admission charges. They promise to be a welcome addition to the local plant fairs calendar. For more information please visit