Saturday, 11 March 2017

feed and mulch

It was a great day for mulching, calm, warm and dry.  Calm is good because then the fish, blood and bone falls where I sprinkle it instead of drifting everywhere, the Strulch doesn't blow about, and I remain calm.  Warm is good because it is more comfortable.  You don't exactly work up a sweat mulching, and it's much more pleasant crawling around the borders being careful where you put your hands and knees as you pull out tiny goose grass seedlings when you have the sun on your back and balmy air in your lungs.  And dry is good for the same reason, and because then the fish, blood and bone don't stick to the leaves of your plants.  Today was perfect, and I was disappointed when it got to a quarter to six and I had to admit that I could no longer see as well as I did and the dew was falling.

I finished the smaller of the two rose beds around the top lawn, and started on the big, sloping bed that runs from the entrance gate to the bottom of the garden.  The middle section is edged with a gaudy display of polyanthus and primrose hybrids.  Some have been recycled from winter pots, some grown from seed, some were bought at a bungalow gate en route to a Pilates lesson, and some were incredibly good value at B&Q.  There is no colour scheme to speak of.  They are predominantly yellow towards the top of the slope and mainly pink and purple towards the lower end of the patch, but that's about it.

The effect is extremely un-Tom Stuart-Smith, and would not win a spot in Gardens Illustrated, but I am fond of them.  They remind me of childhood hours playing with my plastic toy animals in the flower beds, they are cheerful, and the Systems Administrator likes them, proclaiming them a splash of colour.  There are patches of Muscari too where the mice haven't eaten them, some dark purple and some Cambridge blue that might be 'Valerie Finnis', though I have a feeling she disappeared and I ordered a second pale blue variety.  There are a few hyacinths, recycled from pots, and this afternoon I added last year's 'Splendid Cornelia', which were potted up again last autumn and have made such good flowering plants I could have reused them in the big containers.

I started by mulching around the polyanthus on the grounds that their leaves are expanding by the day so it will be easier now than in a week's time, and because since they are doing their thing for the year now they might as well do it against a tidy, weed free background.  The next low growing plant at the front of the bed as you go down the hill is a big patch of Omphalodes verna, a perennial forget-me-not type with bright blue flowers that runs more aggressively than you would want in a bed of treasures.  Occasionally I fret that it is a bit of thug, but on the whole I am grateful to it for covering the ground for much of the year, and the blue flowers are very pretty.  It dies away to nothing but stalks and bare, stringy runners in the winter, but the leaves are now expanding fast and need their covering of Strulch directly.

Pieris japonica 'White Pearl' is full out at the front of the bed.  It is well named, the individual flowers being brilliant white and round so that they look like clusters of pearls.  It was an impulse purchase from the plant centre when I worked there, and then I began to think that it was a tiny bit vulgar, but as it grows I like it more.  It has proved very slow growing, which may be its nature but is probably also because the soil in the lower part of that bed is a sort of horrible, stagnant, stony clay that is less horrible than it was after years of mulching but still not very nice.  The fat clusters of flowers practically cover the bush at this time of year, and the result has more presence and for some reason is less vulgar now the plant is not so absolutely tiny.

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