After what has felt like interminable cold and greyness this weekend the sun shone and the wind disappeared. It was warm enough to spend half an hour sitting on the bench looking at the garden, taking in all the new growth pushing through the soil and thinking about winter plans and schemes. You realise that some of the plans are not that realistic, some could be more ambitious and others you just need to get on with.
I have been out of love with the Stipa gigantea for some years now but I kept making excuses for it as sometimes when the Autumn sun shone it could look magical. However, since we got the cat it has suffered. She has a predilection for attacking it; performing rugby tackles that I am sure any international rugby player would be proud of and so come the Autumn there are few flower heads on display for the sun to shine through. This is also one of the sunniest and well-drained parts of the garden, ideal conditions for bearded irises which were my first plant love right back to my teens. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for a battle. 5 minutes later the plant was surprisingly out of the ground with little effort at all from me. I do wonder if I was blaming the cat too much and maybe the grass was coming to the end of its life anyway since the root system was not that great considering the size of the plant. Its removal has left me with a lovely new patch beside the steps ready for planting. It needs some enrichment with compost as the soil looks dry and exhausted, but then I will add some bearded irises and Agapanthus. The space is larger than I had envisaged so I will have to extend my plans.
Feeling pleased I also moved the Cotinus further down the Big Border. I have wanted to move it all winter, only by a few feet but its new position is better and just looks right compared to where it was before. I also gave it a light prune to try to give it a better shape. Sunday has been an even more glorious February day so next up was the great Clematis shuffle. I only have a few clematis although I love them. I think I am frightened of them engulfing plants or disappearing over the fence to delight my neighbours and not me. I have started to introduce them hesitatingly but with little understanding. The first to move is Clematis mandschurica which I grew from seed some 4 years ago. It was growing up a small obelisk in the Rose Border but I want to give it more space so it has been moved to be trained along the fence by the conifers. The small obelisk is now home to a blue flowered clematis whose label I can’t find at the moment but it seems to be a less vigorous plant so the obelisk should be a good size for it. Finally Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ which used to grow up an obelisk by the greenhouse was moved from the shady patio border to the big obelisk up by the Workshop. Hopefully here it will have plenty of space and the warmth will encourage it to flower better.
I also planted out three Hepatica noblis bought from Ashwoods just to the right of this photo in the conifer corner. This part of the garden has been a struggle for some time as it is under the Field Maple tree so it’s very hard to get things into the soil due to the trees roots. Two winters ago I added three small conifers which are very slow-growing with the intention that they would provide ground cover. They are interplanted with various small bulbs including last year’s special snowdrop and eranthis purchases. I was thrilled when I was tidying along the edge of the steps to discover some cyclamen had self-seeded so hopefully in a year of two they will be spreading around.
The sun has led the eranthis to finally open their flowers including the pretty Eranthis hyemalis Grunling with its green flecks to the petals. Two of my other Eranthis hyemalis plants are showing signs of self-seeding and spreading which is really satisfying.
The more pottering I did the more jobs occurred to me. Some ferns and acanthus had their tattered leaves removed. I sowed some Barnhaven Primula seeds and potted up a clutch of Auricula seedlings. The patio was swept and leaf debris removed. The stash of last year’s purchases squirreled away in the shade of the house wall were checked over so I could remind myself what plants needed homes. I did a bit of arranging of pots, not my strong point, and collected up this year’s snowdrop purchases into one large pot so they produce a jolly display outside the living room window. When they have flowered I will plant them out in the borders.
I do think you notice more at this time of year probably because you are looking for any signs of Spring and growth. Today, I was pleased to see shoots forming on the stem of the Euphorbia stygiana in the Hardy Exotic border. Just as exciting was to see the colouration of the lower leaves as I was drawn to the plant having seen one at a nursery last April which vibrant red lower leaves. Also in this border daffodils are emerging and should be interesting as I have no idea which ones they are. I wanted some spring colour here to enjoy from the bench so I bought a mix of daffodil bulbs from a bulb merchant and we shall wait and see.
The list of tasks for next weekend, weather permitting, is already forming in my mind and I am researching plants for the various plans I have. I am going to a talk by Anna Pavord next Saturday so no doubt I will come back from that with more enthusiasm and ideas. It is nice to feel so positive about the garden having gone through a bit of a trough and feeling as though I have lost my way. It’s funny how suddenly conversations with gardening friends, a book to review and a few gardening programmes have come together and a light bulb moment has occurred. I just need to work hard to create the ideas in my head now.