It was a lovely day for applying mulch, and the brown tide rose steadily up the border along the side of the back garden, as I spread Strulch after picking up several sacks of leaves and winkling out odd weeds, grass stems and the inevitable goose grass seedlings. On the whole the bed wasn't too weedy, as I'd been over it once during the winter.
The little dark pink flowered Prunus mume 'Beni-chidori' is in full flower on bare branches. Every year its leaves roll up, pucker, and look dreadful, and I wonder if a sap sucking insect has been at work and whether the tree will survive, but so far it has pleasantly surprised me each spring by coming back into flower. I ought to try and find out what goes wrong with the leaves, except that as I don't want to slip into the pattern of spraying entire trees there isn't much I could do about it. It will have to make it under its own steam, or not at all, though I did give it a good sprinkling of fish, blood and bone when I Strulched it. The flowers are really very pretty, though they don't last for very long. Later in the season the tree plays host to a perennial sweet pea, giving a second spell of flowering in that stretch of the border and masking the horrible leaves, otherwise I should slightly grudge the space and more so in a smaller garden.
The Crocus tommasinianus in the bottom lawn are starting to go over. The pale lilac ones have finished, while a darker purple variety is still flowering. Unfortunately I don't know precisely which either of them are. I see from my planting notes that I have at various times planted the straight species and the varieties 'Barr's Purple', 'Ruby Giant' and 'Whitewell Purple'. That's one difficulty in naturalising bulbs, it is impossible to label individual clumps so you don't always know exactly what you've got flowering in the garden. I think I like the pale ones best, but obviously it would be a good idea to plant a mixture to extend the season. If I remember I could ask the specialist bulb suppliers at the Chelsea Flower Show. A little persistence can be required to get the attention of whoever it is on the stand who knows the plants in that much detail, since often you find yourself at first asking somebody who normally works in the office and is only there to hand out catalogues.
The Iris unguicularis against the south wall of the house are still going great guns. I ought to keep a diary of when they start and stop flowering, since I've a feeling it is quite variable. This year they didn't really get going until the New Year and I was starting to fret that they hadn't liked something about last year's growing conditions and weren't going to put on much of a show this winter. I'm sure that some years they have got going well before Christmas. The flowers are very graceful, smaller than those of the bearded iris, and a good shade of mid purple. I am extremely fond of them, and seeing them out now is a reward for all the time I spent last autumn grooming dead leaves out of the clumps.
The foliage of the Watsonia in the gravel looks dreadful, brown and more than half dead, in one case nine-tenths dead. They were doing pretty well, but the last set of frosts hit them hard. I am hoping that new growth will emerge from within the clumps, and in the meantime I am leaving the old leaves on as protection. Tidying them up if it does is going to be a fiddly job.