I find this time of year challenging in the sense that I don’t see my garden Monday to Friday due to it being dark when I leave for and return from work. I have no idea if the witch hazel is flowering, whether the snowdrops are emerging but also blessedly I have no idea what damage the tulip crazed badger has done. This means that weekends, regardless of the weather, are very important to me.
I find myself scrutinising all the borders looking for changes, bulbs emerging, buds plumping up. There is often a little squeak of joy as a special plant is spotted to be showing signs of life but at the moment the groans of disappear seem to outweigh them as I find more holes with the remains of tulip bulbs. I am really going to have to rethink tulips next year, maybe plant them in plastic pots so I can plant them out in the border when they are substantial and less at risk from tulip junky badgers.
This morning the sun was shining and despite it being very chilly (3C/37F) I found myself quite distracted examining the bluebells and snowdrops pushing through the mulch I applied over the Christmas break. The snowdrops seem to be further behind than normal with hardly any sign of flowers, last year they were definitely in flower on the 15th January. The bluebells seem to be ahead with lots of lush strong foliage.
The various hellebores are budding up well and are really becoming quite substantial clumps. I have one, Helleborus argustifolius ‘Janet Starnes’ whose silvery foliage has more impact than its flower which is quite nondescript. However, there seems to be more flowers on it this year so it has improved a little on previous years. Don’t get me wrong the foliage is lovely, as you can see, but to me hellebores are really all about the flowers.
The witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’) is just beginning to open its flowers. I do hope that the flowers stay a while so I get a chance to enjoy it in its finery next weekend. There are also Primulas in flower which does seem a little early and I can only assume the mild weather we had over Christmas and the start of the new year has contributed to this. But my favourites are the Eranthis and Cyclamen coum which are really brightening up the spring/patio border at the moment. I am thrilled that the Eranthis has four flowers on it this year. Not a huge achievement you might think but it means it is beginning to spread finally.
I have been through a difficult patch in recent month, challenging mentally and emotionally and the garden and writing this blog about it has been a helpful distraction. I am trying to be a better gardener as I have said before, to really focus on what I am doing and not be distracted by other peripheral things. This focusing is beginning to really help. My head is clearer and I am really seeing the garden and the plants in a more thoughtful way, instead of my previous rushing with a 101 other things crashing around in my head. One of the things I am trying to do is to be more methodical in keeping a garden diary. I originally started this blog as a garden diary but it soon digressed so now I have a journal which I write in during the evening after gardening. It helps me sort the ideas that have occurred to me, to organise the ridiculous plant moving that always seems to plausible when first thought of, to make a note of things/plants I would like to try. More importantly when I read back to earlier in the season I realise how much I have achieved or am reminded of some great idea that has slipped from my vague mind. I know it seems old-fashioned but I find it more comforting than sitting typing on a laptop or scrolling back through blog posts.
The other thing I am attempting to do, and I suspect if past experience is anything to go on I will fail at, is to keep better record of what I sow and how. I want to learn more about plants and how they grow and what environments they need etc, so I decided that I had to teach myself and to do that I need to keep records. Also if I ever pluck up the courage to exhibit something in the distant future at an Alpine Garden Society show I need to be able to say when it was sown and where the seed came from.
Talking of seed sowing, this weekend it was the turn of the tender annuals to be sown. I had some really really good news this week which has gone a long way to helping me overcome my demons and so I decided to treat myself to a new propagator. This one is narrow so will fit on a windowsill. Today I sowed a variety of tenders including hibiscus and ricinus. My son was a little perplexed at the increasing amount of compost that I am sterilizing in the oven, it is certainly an interesting smell. We tested the propagator for 24 hours with a greenhouse thermometer to see how hot it actually got and it has reached 25/28C which is just right. I only sowed half of each packet, keeping the second half for a later sowing if needed.
Outside I have decided to get another compost bin so I have a bank of three wooden ones and I am determined to rotate the compost properly and in a timely fashion!. This will mean that I can get rid of the horrid ugly green plastic one which is currently near the back of the house. This will then mean that I can move the two cold frames to behind the garage and free up the patio for somewhere to actually sit and have nice pots of flowers on – who’d a thought!!
So it might be cold, the ground might be frozen but I end the weekend feeling refreshed and connected with the garden; with things to research for next weekend and items to order – after all retail therapy, especially online, is always good for you!