My selection of blooms for February include a lot of flowers that were flowering last month. It seems to me that spring flowers last longer than those in the summer. I wonder if it is something to do with the temperatures or whether they flower longer to give them more chance of being pollinated by the pollinators which are scarcer than in the summer.
A couple of clamps of Eranthis which are slowly clumping up. I did have Eranthis schwefelglanz which is a pale Eranthis but I haven’t spotted it so far which is disappointing.
My first daffodils or narcissus are flowering – Narcissus ‘February Gold’. I planted these bulbs back in the Autumn in a new area where the compost bins were previously. The flowers are more delicate than I anticipated and I am really pleased with how they look, I will definitely be adding more next year.
Probably the last bloom on the Iris ungicularis looking a little chewed but still providing a welcome splash of colour at this time of year.
One of the many clumps of snowdrops around the garden. I am really pleased with how big the clumps are now; I will probably do a little splitting of clumps in a month or so once the flowers have finished.
One of my more specialist snowdrops – Galanthus ‘Wendys Gold’ – different because of the gold ovaries and markings on the inner petals.
And a selection of my favourite hellebores
So these are the floral highlights from my garden.
For more garden bloggers blooms check out May Dream Gardens, where Carol kindly hosts this meme.
With a little sunshine this weekend and a slight increase in the temperatures the first hellebores are starting to open. This is the plant that hooked me on hellebores some 7 years ago. I used to use it as my avatar on twitter and Blotanical. It is one of the Ashwood hybrids and I love the yellow and red combination.
The mystery snowdrop has opened and I am none the wiser. I know where and when I bought it but I can find nothing written down in my notebooks or on the blog about what it is. Ho-hum
At last I have found the label for the snowdrop – Galanthus Selborne Green Tip
Although I like the special snowdrops I have bought I still feel more anticipation at waiting for the clumps of ordinary Galanthus nivalis to open. I also have the double Galanthus nivalis Flora Pleno which is already beginning to spread despite only being planted just over a year ago.
My eranthis are beginning to appear around the garden which is pleasing as some were only added a year ago. Unlike the snowdrops I can tell the difference between these three. Eranthis hyemalis is the ordinary one, schwefelglanz is a pale yellow and grunling has green stripes to the flowers. I think there are some more which I would like to collect, I heard tell of a double the other day so I will be seeking those out.
The very first daffodils in the garden are about to open. I have no idea what variety they are, they came with the garden but they always flower early. This picture amused me as I think they look like two geese or ducks – but then I may have a strange imagination.
I did find some time to do a few gardening tasks over the weekend although I found after an hour outside my toes were quite frozen despite several layers of socks. I am pleased that I tidied up the driveway border in the front garden and also the Big Border. The garden is looking more ready for Spring than it has in any other year which is satisfying although there are still some areas that I need to tackle but these will involve more heavy duty work and some shrub rearranging. Today I mulched the woodland border just managing to get the wood bark down before the bulbs had emerge too much making it tricky. Like many gardeners I have spent some time over the winter thinking about the garden and planning what I want to grow and plant over the coming season.
I am going through a period of working through various emotions and trying to work out, as much as is possible, what I would like to achieve in various aspects of my life. I suspect this need to have a plan or objective is due to several uncertainties in my life that I have no control over at the moment. One of the things I can control and plan is what I want to do in the garden over the coming season and what will make me happy. I have mentioned over the last month how I have been inspired by some television programmes and books and I feel that I have a much clearer idea in my head of how I want the garden to develop, finally. Part of this is re-engaging with my old love of growing plants from seed and in particular some annuals that I haven’t grown for years including rudbeckia and zinnias. My pocket diary this year has the saying ‘Do more of what makes you happy’ on the front and I have taken this as my motto for the year. I spent yesterday evening sorting through my box of seed packets and sorting out what I hope to sow this year and when, for no other reason than the flowers make me happy – no planning for shows etc.
Part of my frustrations come from only seeing the garden at weekends although already this is starting to change and I almost get home in day light. I have invested in recent years in a number of miniature bulbs, partly with a view to showing, but also because I love their daintiness. However, I don’t get to see them properly as they are in the greenhouse and its generally dark. I don’t have the time, working full-time, to perfect the plants for showing and I am someone who needs to do something well if they are going to do it – I hate failing. I have decided to put showing on the back burner until I can do it properly unless there is a show near home and I happen to have something looking good. My friend, Dee, posted a picture of iris reticulata on Facebook today on display in her home and I think this is what I want to do more – bring the pots into the house as the bulbs are about to flower. I have invested in a plunge bed and I hate waste so I have been exploring the possibility of converting it into a heated propagator which it seems is very feasible, thanks to advice from friends on twitter. This will mean that the annuals etc I want to grow from seed and the cuttings I would like to try taking will get a better start so hopefully all will turn out for the best.
I sometimes think I should rename the blog – The Indecisive Gardener – as I change my mind so much. I think some of this is due to the overload of images and information you can get via social media so I need to step back a little bit to let my head clear. I spend a lot of time on social media in the evenings, especially at this time of year, as it’s a distraction and it stops me chewing my fingers (a very bad habit). I had been doing some embroidery which I have blogged about before but the project I was working on is a little fiddly and I have been avoiding it so I have today ordered some new materials for new project which should be a good distraction and a calming influence until the evenings are light enough for me to play in the garden after work.
Amongst the gusty wind and grey skies there were moments of still and sunshine this weekend when the garden shone giving me the perfect opportunity to get some horticultural therapy and take photographs.
I get such a thrill seeing plants emerge at any time of year, watching leaves unfurl and buds open but at this time of year there is something particularly special when you see the first shoots of snowdrops, narcissus, crocus and eranthis pushing through the soil. I suspect this is the reason so many plantsmen (and women) end up becoming glanthophiles; in desperate need of some horticultural enjoyment at what is a bleak time of year they turn to the few plants that are showing signs of life. I have snowdrops, both everyday and a few special starting to flower, but for me it was spotting the eranthis pushing through the soil that really thrilled me.
They have such a strange way of emerging with the frill of leaves pulling the flower bud out of the ground all ready to open, they completely intrigue me. Elsewhere the camellia and hellebore buds are still forming but beginning to show some colour so it shouldn’t be too long before they open.
My mother asked me the other day what on earth I found to do for an hour and half in the garden at this time of year which amused me. I can always find something to do. Although I have an editing list, running around in my head, of plants that I want to move or simply remove, this weekend I was feeling a little weary so I indulged in pottering, one of my favourite gardening activities. I worked my way through the Woodland Border weeding, cutting back perennials and generally tidying. This border saw quite a change last year with the death of the Acer and I am still working out how to fill the gap.
As you can see the border is looking very sparse in interest although I know that the border is actually full but everything is sleeping below the soil, there are lots of shoots beginning to push through the ground. But it does need structure and form and I know from looking at it through the past year it needs sorting out so the plants look better. I have just started reading Keith Wiley’s new book ‘Designing and Planting a Woodland Garden’ which has got me thinking. In it he groups plants, aside from shrubs and trees, into one of six groups and he talks about how you use plants from each group with each other. He also says that whilst we are better at taking into account the right growing conditions for a plant we seem to have forgotten to think about how the plants actually work together. I have also been watching a new Alan Titchmarsh series, ‘Britain’s Best Back Garden‘, where he meets everyday gardeners in a rich variety of gardens. I have found the programme fascinating as many of the gardeners are very passionate about their gardens, often with no formal training, and their gardens are amazing; full, lush, floriferous. Between the book and the programme I have found myself reassessing the back garden and my approach and coming up with plans. Nothing drastic but I want to incorporate some more interesting shrubs and remove those that have only a short season of interest and don’t earn their keep. I also want to improve my overall approach to planting to be braver and trust my instincts more rather than worrying about whether the conditions are right, what people will say, how quickly the plant will grow etc.
Above is the woodland border from the patio and you can see that there is a bit of winter interest at this end but there is also so much potential and scope for me to really improve it. I think I might feature this area in the End of Month View although it is quite hard to find a good angle to photograph it from, but then again yo can say that about most of the garden.
I’m a day early with the weekly review post but I am planning on a horticultural outing tomorrow so I thought I might as well get blogging. As I said last week at this time of year with the short days I don’t see the garden apart from at the weekend, although I did notice towards the end of the week that it was more twilight when I drove home from work than dark so the days are definitely getting longer. A walk around the garden, or should I say squelch given the amount of rain we have had and how sodden the ground, is and I discovered that the hellebores will soon be flowering. The one above was a purchase last year from Ashwoods Nurseries and I am so pleased to see it flowering as I have lost the witch hazel I bought at the same time. Also I located the Eranthis in the patio border beginning to push through the mulch
The main objective today was to lift the chrysanthemums from the Big Border and pot them up for storing over the rest of the winter in the greenhouse. I am still not convinced I like chrysanthemums or where they will reside if I replant them later this year but the task was completed. As the sun was shining so strongly this afternoon it seemed a pity not to take advantage of some fresh area despite the low temperatures. I decide to tidy the rest of the slope border partly as this is the only area that hasn’t had a tidy up and also as I wanted to refamilarise myself with the space as I have plans forming for it.
I have recently been calling this area the Slope of Indecision and the plans for it seem to have changed on an almost daily basis. This space has always been a challenge. When we moved in the whole of the back slope was dominated by a vast laurel. Removing it gave me access to the slope but opened up the view to the neighbour behind. I planted bamboo a few years back to provide a screen to the neighbour’s house – he has a habit of pruning anything that crosses the fence so I didn’t want to plant trees or shrubs for him to savage with his shears. I have added pyracantha and chaenomeles along the fence and they, along with the bamboo, are starting to fill out and establish. The slope until last year was the Daisy Border and was planted predominately with Asters in front of a row of Calamagrostic ‘Overdam’. However with the addition of the workshop the slope was significantly reduced and the asters shoehorned into a tiny space which is shader than before – in my view the planting was not as effective as when the whole slope was planted in this style and I decided a few months back that it had to change.
But what? The lower narrow part of the slope is planted now with ferns and epimediums and bulbs and so it would make sense to continue this style but the bit we are talking about is much deeper (taller) and needs some structure, height and I have been at a loss what to do. The current television series Garden Revival which has looked at various garden styles and interests had led to me thinking for 48 hours about putting in a rockery which could house the alpines I have but I wasn’t really convinced. Last night my thoughts crystallised and inspiration from a number of sources came together. Two editions of the Great British Garden Revival programme had covered stumperys especially ferns and tropical plants, particularly hardy exotics plus I had read an article in one of the glossies about hardy exotics. The conclusion is to indulge my love of ferns adding more to the slope but to add hardy exotics which will give structure and height – I am thinking of Tetrapanex, Fatsias, Paulownia, Acanthus and Hostas. At the base of the slope there will be a small seating area so the pile of stones and pebbles will be sorted out.
I feel excited about this idea and now the slope is cleared of debris I can see the space and how much I need to relocate. It has been like a slow burn light bulb moment if such a thing can exist. I have been attracted to succulents for a while and dabbled with exotics such as cannas although they have never really done it for me. I love big leaves and lush foliage and the majority of my recent plant purchases have been strong on foliage. Interestingly, when I was in San Francisco this summer my friend Victoria commented that she thought I was an exotics addict. I disabused her of this idea and even convinced myself. I think I was thinking about agaves, cannas and bananas which really don’t appeal. However I think she was right and quite perceptive so I have given in and it feels a very comfortable capitulation. Planning and scheming will now commence!
I have what I like to call ‘A Table of Delights’ on my patio. It is just outside my living room doors and is part of an outdoor table and chair set but being a keen gardener I rarely sit down at it. However the table is where I put my favourite small plants and I thought I might do a series of posts through the year showing you what is on it.
Over the winter it has been home to a stubby terracota pot of Viola and Cineraria. I don’t think I wanted any bulbs in it but my memory really isn’t that good. It’s funny as this simple pot is the best winter display I have and it was created from leftovers of other pots I planted up!.
I prefer Violas to Pansies as they are dainter and I think flower better. These little Violas have been flowering on and off all winter despite frequently disappearing under snow and being frosted.
Next to the pot is a small wooden tray which appears to be just full of gravel but I can see, if I squint hard enough, that there are Iris Reticulata beginning to emerge. I am hoping that they will flower as they are bulbs I saved from last Spring and I don’t always have success with getting them to flower a second year. Time will tell.
The other pot on the table contains my Eranthis Schwefelganz which I bought in the Autumn from Avon Bulbs. As I have been moving a lot of stuff around where my spring bulbs normally are I decided to plant it up in a small pot and then I could plant it out in the Spring when I had a better idea of where it was going to live. Then I couldn’t find it. I had cleared out the old cold frame and been ruthless throwing out pots of plants that had died and I was worried that I had accidentally thrown this out but no there is was the other morning winking at me from the bottom of the new cold frame. I have put it on the table so I can enjoy its flowers from inside as well as outside. My only comment is that they aren’t as pale as I was expecting which is a disappointment.
When these pots have finished I will move them and replace them with something else small and pretty to cheer me up when I am stuck indoors