Monday 31 March 2014

End of the month view

The view at the end of March is distinctly yellow ! It is the predominant colour and leaps out to smack you in the eye from daffodils, forsythia, kerria,  japonica and cowslips. Now, although not a fan of yellow flowers generally, I can make an exception for all these heralds of Spring as they are so very welcome at the end of a dreary winter.

The pond is full of frogspawn, and the frogs are still having a froggy - riot in there, a non stop party to which all are invited. The first clump of spawn appeared overnight on 12th March, to be followed by dozens more over the next few days. The marginal plants have been triggered into growth already and Caltha Palustris (Marsh Marigold) is in full flower.

Although Spring is extremely welcome, I always feel a brief wave of despair when I look at the garden, as although lots of things are growing, there are still huge stretches of bare earth. I can never fully visualise how the garden will develop that exuberant abundance later in the season. The lush growth and flowers of summer are hard to imagine at this time of year. This is when blogging comes into its own, as I, like all garden bloggers, have a million squillion photos of the garden throughout the seasons, so it is easy to remind myself how the garden burgeons over the next few weeks. Looking at photos can be so useful, as they are hard evidence that things will improve!

Cowslips by the pond
A couple of weeks ago, we planted 50 new bare root beech hedging plants, to enclose the north and east side of the veg plot. Because of the mild winter we had to get them planted as quickly as possible after they arrived, as the leaf buds were very well developed, and the plants were coming out of dormancy.

The sub- tropical garden hasn't had the battering is usually gets every winter, and hopefully there has been no check to growth, as the palms and more tender plants have had no need to recover from very low temperatures.

The geraniums are well into growth, and I do like them at this time of year, as they are like Yorkshire puddings on a tray - all neat and round and uniform. I know they are just biding their time before they begin their annual sprawl!

All the roses are now in strong growth, including the dozen or so bare root plants which are just beginning to establish. In the photo above is a hedge of 'Charles de Mills' , underplanted with Rosa 'Garden Party'. All have remained in leaf throughout the winter, giving welcome structure to the garden.

All the Euphorbias are looking splendid at the moment, fresh and colourful, dense and compact. They are a lovely dark contrast to the pastel colours of the flowers.

This is Clematis Armandii, flowering for the first time, and is is another plant which breathes a sigh of relief when the winter passes without  a spell or two of really cold weather. It is a tender plant which really benefits from some winter protection, but it is well worth the effort. The flowers are large and gorgeous, and I thought they were scented, but this one certainly isn't.

The borders are springing into growth, perennials are pushing through, shrubs are beginning to leaf up and bulbs are flowering. Some shrubs are flowering, mainly forsythia, Kerria, Magnolia Stellata and Flowering Currant (Ribes).

Primula Denticulata (above) the Drumstick Primula, sits well with some naturalised hyacinths (below), which were originally grown in the house, as forced bulbs.

There is good news in the greenhouse as the Auriculas have started to bloom, so I have moved them outside onto the old stepladders, which desperately attempt to morph into an Auricula Theatre. The first one to flower was a large double, in an unusual delicate orangey - yellow, and it was followed soon after by a tiny single, dark red . I am very cross with myself as I have lost the labels for both, so if anyone out there knows the name of these little beauties, please would you let me know!

The 'EOMV'  has been a real pleasure to put together this month, as I have had a wealth of subjects to choose from to photograph ! Throughout winter, it is usually a case of 'Hunt the bloom', and there is no selection process. If it's in flower, it gets photographed. This month, for the first time in this new season, I have had a profusion of subjects, which means that Spring has most definitely sprung!

You can see many other 'End of the month views' at 'The Patient gardener', hosted by Helen Johnstone. There is a big diversity of gardens from around the globe, and some excellent blogs to hop across to.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

And I didn't give a fig...

I was hopping idly from blog to gorgeous blog, as you do, and I came across this meme on '  Loose and leafy', called 'Tree Following' and I think it is such a cracking idea. The premise is that you choose a tree and then post about it regularly for a year,  on the 7th day of each month ,including photos, information, musings and anything you like really . It is a good opportunity to focus in on one tree and really look at it carefully, photograph it, think about it, research it  and, basically, love it !

Ok, once I was hooked on the idea of the meme,  all I had to do was to choose a tree. I didn't think that would be a problem, as we have quite a few to choose from in the garden, but it doesn't even have to be your own tree for you to join the meme. It could be in a park or a wood, or even someone else's garden. My first thought was to choose my favourite tree, which is Prunus Serrula, as I wanted to photograph those wonderful long strips of red, translucent bark with the sun shining through them. Then I realised that the branches are so high that I couldn't easily get photos of buds, leaves or flowers. Not such a good choice.

My next choice was Betula Jacquemontii, my second favourite tree, as I was interested in recording some of the insect life which it supports, and the birds which swing through its branches. Tempting...

However, I have decided to choose a tree based, not on my emotional response, but on interest throughout the year. One I know little about, so would benefit from learning about. It is ... ta dah... the Fig tree, Ficus Carica, 'Brown Turkey' (which has been awarded an AGM).

It has grown against a south facing wall in a sheltered part of the garden for about twenty years, in the poorest soil, filled with bricks and builder's rubble. It has thrived on my neglect. Every Autumn, I prune it back cruelly, just to keep it to a workable size, and it never complains. I know that I planted it, but I have no recollection of doing so, nor can I remember where I bought it. It must have been quite unusual in Lincolnshire twenty years ago, I suppose.

Here is my confession. I have never eaten ONE of the beautiful figs which it produces so freely for me every year. I do like figs. When we are on holiday in hot, wonderful places, we buy them in the local market and eat them almost with reverence. When they grow in our garden, we leave them to rot on the tree. I do not understand this, nor can I explain it, nor am I proud of it. Maybe this meme will change it.

Already this meme has taught me lots, and I feel bad about the way I have mistreated this poor tree. It should have had winter protection - but no one told me , or the tree, that it was tender. I bought it in my 'gung-ho' days of gardening, when my world was full of young children and full time work, and I had little time to research what I planted. I knew it needed a sheltered spot , but didn't realise that I should have also given it winter protection. Anyhow, it has survived exceptionally well, coping with temperatures of minus twelve one winter. I also knew vaguely that figs like poor soil, and quite like to have their roots constrained. Having just checked the RHS site, I see that this is indeed true, and promotes heavier fruiting!

I am feeling a little guilty at my flagrant mistreatment of this poor tree, but, to be honest, it has thrived on my neglect. Fig trees should be planted against a wall (south facing if possible) in free draining soil. They respond well if they are grown in a 'planting pit' , lied with slabs, and containing a layer of broken crocks/ builder's rubble at the bottom, with soil laid on top. The slabs should stand a little proud of the soil to prevent the roots spreading from the 'pit'. Alternatively, they can be planted in containers, as they grow well when they are restricted in this way.

Here in the UK , Spring is springing and the first trees are coming into leaf. My fig has fat green leaf buds which should open in a week or two, so hopefully the next 'Tree following' post will show my boy fully clothed !