Monday, 14 March 2016

the spring tidy continues in the absence of spring

It was a chilly sort of day.  There was some warmth in the sun, but the wind was cold.  It's blowing from the north east, and looking at the forecast for the rest of the week is set to stay there.  That's quite usual for the east coast at this time of the year.  The garden knows it is not really spring yet. There are sad little curled up flowers on the pulmonaria and the primroses, but they aren't expanding with any kind of spring-like abandon.  I ended up working at the bottom of the back garden, not necessarily because those were the most urgent jobs, but because it offered me the most shelter from the wind.

I have been planting out pots of Anemone blanda in the ditch bed.  I was worried that previous plantings disappeared, but looking again there were enough emerging anemone buds to make me think it would not be a total waste to plant more.  I will hedge my bets and try some in the gravel as well.  The ditch bed has a depressing number of mouse holes in it, and every so often there is a patch of violas, or sweet rocket, or whatever it might be, that has been nibbled off to stalks in a manner that's more mouse than rabbit.

I noticed when we visited the Chatto gardens that they had Anemone blanda growing in the gravel, so it must cope with those conditions for at least a season or two.  The trouble with adopting ideas for potential ephemerals like bulbs from gardens that open to the public is that you can never know how frequently they top up their plantings to maintain the display, whereas I'm after a high percentage of bulbs that will naturalise.  I used to have more crocus in the borders in the back garden before mice (or squirrels) stripped most of them out.

It is a good time of year to plant out small pots of bulbs, as you can see most of what's coming up. The snowdrops have been in growth for months, of course, but by now the snouts of Erythronium are just about visible, and the Corydalis are poking through.  Some things come later, and there is no sign yet of the lily of the valley.  I remember panicking last year that I couldn't see it, and then it turned up.  Solomon's seal isn't visible yet either.  With those you have to remember roughly where they are, and if the tip of your trowel encounters resistance them stop digging.

I've been squeezing more daffodil 'Tete a tete' into the front of the border at the top of the bog bed. £6.50 of bulbs from Peter Nyssen seemed to produce a gratifyingly large number of pots to plant out, though against that I should set off the failure of the white fritillaries and Narcissus 'Pacific Coast'.

I am pruning the hydrangeas as well, as I get to them.  If you shorten the branches on mopheads and lacecaps you will lose a lot of the coming season's flowers, so the solution if they get too big is to remove some of the oldest and longest branches at the base.  Hydrangea grandiflora and H. arborescens 'Annabelle' with her huge balls of flower can both be taken down quite hard as they will flower on this summer's growth, giving you fewer but larger flowers on a more manageable sized shrub.  'Annabelle' tends to flop, her stems not being quite up to the weight of the monster blooms, so shorter is probably structurally better (though heavier flowers aren't necessarily).  I have been eyeing up a smart rusted iron support for her, but she isn't getting one this year.  There are some fine, straight suckers on a grafted hazel by the dustbins that I urgently need to cut out, so I could see if they are flexible enough to bend into some kind of home made support.

The poor old chickens weren't allowed out, despite the sunshine.  I couldn't face the idea of hanging around the front garden with them in the teeth of the wind.  In fact, it was so cold that I packed up at four, fully an hour before they'd have gone back into their run.

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