After an unseasonably warm February we are now back to a more traditional March menu of sunshine and showers and windy days. In between showers it is nice to just wander and browse. Every day now there is something different emerging. Green shoots are visible on many perennials and the peonies that we moved in the autumn to a new home in more sunshine are all looking very promising.
At this time of year it is the little things that matter. There is no full-on show of summer flowers but the small clumps of bulbs and other spring flowers that come back year after year are always very special.
It will be interesting to see whether the warm February will bring on the spring flowers earlier this year. These photographs were all taken on 11th March 2019.
Whilst sitting enjoying a well earned cuppa, it struck me how wonderful the two flowering cherries (Prunus incisa ‘Paean’) that flank the patio steps were looking. They are in full flower and certainly the significant pruning that we gave them last year after flowering to get them back into shape has done them no harm at all.
Even when not in leaf or flower the old twisted wisteria stems add real character to this patio area.
In the more shaded areas and in the top copse the primroses are now beginning to emerge taking over from the snowdrops that seemed to go over quickly this year in the warm weather. One of the jobs for the next week or so will be to lift and divide some of the snowdrop clumps whilst they are in the green. The snowdrop walk in the top copse has developed well but the individual clumps look ready to be divided and spread around to develop the walk even further.
Also in the woodland walk the first of the Anemone blanda are starting to emerge. We planted these some years ago now but although they seem to come back year after year they do not seem to have multiplied up to any great extent. They appear to be very delicate but seem to withstand the wind, rain and cold.
Somewhat unexpectedly we have found that some of the Anemone coronaria corms that we grew when we were growing commercially for Honey Pot Flowers have survived well over the winter and are flowering again. When growing for sale we tended to replant each year to ensure that we had good quality long stemmed flowers. This is less important in a private garden and if they continue to survive and establish more naturally they will be a great addition to the new flowering garden.
Regular readers will know that we are transforming what used to be our flower farm into a more aesthetically pleasing flower garden where we can just enjoy growing flowers for ourselves rather than for sale. The structural work is now all complete and the formal hedge is beginning to establish. We think it has all survived the hot dry summer last year but only time will tell. There is plenty more scope for plants that will give more winter interest in this part of the garden and we are currently planting a new area of colourful Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and the red stemmed Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ on the moist bank at the north end.
One of our favourite spring flowers that seem to thrive here in Warwickshire are the Hellebores. They seed themselves freely around the garden and are pretty trouble free. It is such a pleasure to bend down and lift their heads to see the beautiful markings on the inside of the flowers.
Another plant that is flowering its socks off is the perennial wallflower (Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’). Although we always admire this plant in other people’s gardens, especially when combined with striking orange colours later in the year, it has been some years since we have had one in our garden. It was planted last year in an open position in full sun and has established very well, remaining evergreen with some flower throughout most of the winter. It is now getting into its stride as the weather warms up. Luckily it is very easy to propagate from cuttings and we have a good number of young plants growing well in the greenhouse that will allow us to create an excellent show across the flower garden and create some continuity in different beds.
Not much is happening in the orchard yet although the young apricot is beginning to flower. The buds of the pear blossom are beginning to swell and new green leaves are just emerging on the quince. Whether it is just too early for the apricot fruit to set remains to be seen but we were very successful last year despite the bitterly cold weather. Thankfully all the orchard pruning is now complete and the new tripod ladder that I wrote about in an earlier article has helped enormously (both with pruning the orchard and bringing down an enormous Pyracantha to a manageable height).
Many of the evergreen foliage plants are certainly earning their place in the garden at this time of year. The neatly clipped Lonicera nitada hedges, the evergreen Hebe, Skimmia, Pittisporum and trailing ivy all create structure throughout the garden and have done all winter. Alongside these green shades new leaves are emerging. Very striking is the rich golden foliage of Spirea japonica ‘Goldflame’ which shines out in the spring sunshine.
The stars of the show at this time though are the bulbs. Small clumps of the miniature narcissus are returning like old friends in flower beds throughout the garden.
Hyacinths that we grew in pots in previous years and could not bear to simply throw away are now establishing themselves and creating a lovely spring show amongst the evergreen shrubs.
Even more exciting are the delicate flowers of the Chinodoxa that we are slowly building up around the garden. Their delicate pink and blue flowers seem to be establishing well at the base of the long hawthorn hedgerow and amongst the primroses on a sunny bank in the top copse.
I could go on! This is always an exciting time of year and there will be plenty to talk about over the coming weeks.