At this time of year there is so much to do all around the garden. There are seeds to sow, seedlings to prick out, small plants to harden off ready for planting out and lots of growing weeds to keep on top of.
BUT, it is equally important to just take a breath, grab a cup of tea and a piece of cake and just soak up the beauty all around us at this time of year.
There have been times this week with the sun out when I have felt I should reach for the camera and just capture the moment. Spring in all its glory.
This lily flowered tulip has been one of my favourites over recent years. The rich deep burgundy red colour is really striking. The neat green foliage is fresh and spring green. Most importantly they are well behaved and the flowerheads stand straight on strong stems.
Lasting Love is in full flower today (20th April) and soon will be joined in nearby tubs by the variety ‘Marilyn’ which is creamy white with a broad stripe of strawberry red.
Each year we try to extend the period of tulips in the garden by choosing a range of varieties that start flowering in late March and continue the show right through to late May. I reported in April on this year’s early tulips and now it is time to look at the successes and failures of the mid-season varieties – and there have certainly been both!
It has been a strange year so far with a very dry April followed now by a very wet May. The other problem has been that some of the varieties we ordered have proved to be the wrong thing and this has certainly upset the colour combinations and mixes that we had hoped to create.
One specific problem that we had was with a mass of bulbs that were supposed to be Menton Exotic. Menton Exotic is a peachy pink, double variety but what emerged to our horror were these bright yellow/orange blooms of a similar structure but very different colour.
We were given a complete refund but having nurtured them all winter protecting them from the mice, voles and squirrels they were a bit of a disappointment. In the right place, mixed with an appropriate mix of other shades they would have been lovely and we have in fact now grown to enjoy them after the initial shock. I have no idea what variety they are.
One of the real successes of this year was the variety Tulip ‘Lasting Love’. It is such a sumptuous colour and was a real pleasure to have in the garden. It has proved to be long lasting and well behaved despite the heavy rains of May this year.
‘Lasting Love’ works extremely well when backed with evergreen grey foliage. Here it is set off by a new Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Ball’ which we planted last summer when we totally renovated this particular bed to make a ‘moon garden‘. As an aside we have been very pleased with how this Pittosporum variety has kept its shape and colour during the winter and is it growing away well again this spring.
A second combination that has worked well for us this year is ‘Havran’ and ‘Slawa’. Both tulips flowered together (sometimes a problem when you try new combinations) and were of a similar height and temperament. They were fresh and tidy for a long period and stood up well to the very strong winds and rain we had at one time.
In previous years we lost a lot of bulbs to the squirrels and mice when we planted them directly in the ground in November. This year we decided to grow more in large containers and protect them with a narrow gauge, strong wire mesh. This has worked really well and we have lost very few this year. Certainly something we will do again I think.
Although the daffodils are still providing colour in the garden they are definitely beginning to go over now. The next bulbs to perform will be the tulips and the first early tulips are now coming into their own. Here are five early tulip varieties that are in their prime in our garden at the moment (9 April 2021).
Tulip Van Eijk Mixed
Van Eijk Mixed provides a sumptuous array of colour. The flowers sit on strong sturdy stems that have held up well against the strong winds we have had at times this spring. They are looking particularly nice against the emerging red foliage of the roses.
Tulip Haute Couture
This is a short stocky tulip that seems to work very well in pots by the front door where you can look down on them. The powdery yellow is very attractive and the flowers sits neatly amongst these interesting mottled leaves.
Most tulips do not seem to be perennial in our garden and we tend to replant new bulbs each year. Apeldoorn is an exception however and these seem to return each year in the relatively dry conditions under our rose arches. They are very attractive planted amongst white multi-headed Thalia narcissus
Tulips Pink Prince and Flaming Prince
We have planted these two varieties together in six terracotta pots on the front steps down towards the lane. They make a great entrance for visitors (lockdown permitting) as they come up the steep steps with the blooms set against the grey foliage at eye level.
At this time of year it is the little things that you notice. Across the garden it is at times a bit like meeting up with old friends. Many of the bulbs, flowers, shrubs and trees have been in the garden for years yet many have remained hidden or quietly green all summer and winter. Now is their time to shine.
At the same time you have a raft of new arrivals that you planted at the end of last year that you hope have survived the cold, wet winter months. There is a quiet thrill of excitement when you see the first signs of growth breaking through the soil and the first leaves or blossom breaking.
Last Saturday (20 March) was the Spring Equinox here in the northern hemisphere. From now on the days will be longer than the nights, it is the official start of spring and summer is around the corner
To be honest for us the gardening year started sometime ago and the greenhouse, polytunnel, windowsills and dining room are already full of plants and seedlings.
However, the start of spring is a great time to stop and take stock of the beauty in the garden. The first of the pink cherry blossom is particularly pretty at the moment. Over the last couple of years we have been removing a rather thuggish Clematis montana from this tree and it has certainly responded this year with a beautiful show of delicate flowers.
Less successful this year have been the hellebores. Usually they are pretty fool proof providing a wonderful early spring show of colour. This year, for what ever reason, they have all looked very sad. Whether they were hit by a sudden cold spell at a critical time we don’t know but hopefully they will return with gusto next year.
Around the woodland edges there are a number of old favourites that bring a smile to my face as I do the morning tour with my springer spaniel. A simple clump of primroses, a cluster of miniture narsiccus, the small white flowers of the wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, the blues of Anemone blanda and a white Pulmonia ‘Bressingham White’ are all emerging again this year on schedule.
One of my favourite views at this time of year is the view across the orchard. The smell of the first cut of the orchard grass alone is wonderful and daffodils around the base of the apple trees shine out in the spring sunshine.
Over the last few years we have had an ongoing battle with the squirrels and voles who seemed to be intent on eating all our tulip bulbs. This year we have tried a different tack focusing our efforts on planting tulips in large pots and containers rather than in the ground. We invested in some fine metal mesh which we secured over all of the pots and it seems to have worked a treat. We have lost very few and hopefully now they are up we will be enjoying a great show in the next few months. The strong mesh, although not cheap, will also last us for many years and should be a sound investment.
Few tulips seem to last from one year to the next in our soil but we have had success with our very earliest kaufmanniana tulips. Variety ‘Ice Stick’ seems to be particularly successful and is the start of a long tulip season that will continue from now well into May.
There really are so many small and delicate little flowers emerging around the garden including Puschkinia and Chionodoxa to name but a few. The latter get their chance to flower before the grass at the base of the hedgerows starts to get going. We have found that the delicate light blue of Puschkinia sits beautifully with the darker blue of grape hyacinths and makes an attractive combination.
It wouldn’t be fair however to finish without a mention of the humble pansy. Planted before Christmas they look rather uninspiring for most of the winter but now they have come into their own.
There is no particular theme for my Six on Saturday this week other than to highlight the sheer vitality and variety of the garden in May. Here are my six for this week:
One: Cotinus coggygria and Wisteria
I have written recently about our Wisteria and it is complemented here so wonderfully by the new leaves of the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria). The early morning sun shining through the almost translucent young red leaves is stunning.
Two: Anthriscus sylvestris
In total contrast is the cool haze of the woodland garden where the cow parsley is in its absolute prime.
Three: White and purple
In this part of the garden (which is quite shady) we have tried to combine the late season creamy yellow ‘City of Vancover’ tulips with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’. They have overlapped particularly well this year. The white biennial sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis) really lights up this darker corner of the garden. Rather less successful has been the ‘Primrose bedder’ wallflowers which are just visible.
Whenever you walk down a Warwickshire country lane you will see the wild honeysuckle in the hedgerows. It really likes this part of the world and so it is only appropriate that we allow it to flourish in the garden as well. The evening fragrance is to die for.
Five: Blues and yellows in the flower garden
I particularly like this part of the flower garden at the moment. Dutch Irises are such good value. You get alot of bulbs for very little outlay and they seem to be very reliable in our soil. We particularly like the mixtures rather than the single colours and they sit beautifully with the perennial wallflower (Bowles’s Mauve) and the lime green Euphorbia oblongata. Bowles’s Mauve seem to keep flowering all year.
Possibly one of our ‘unsung heros’ in the garden but I think Weigela is also worth a mention this week. Year after year they flower in some of the ‘wilder’ parts of the garden. They always bring a smile to our face.
The tulips are at their most spectacular at the moment and I thought that it would be appropriate to celebrate them as part of Six on Saturday this week.
I have pulled together pictures of six combinations and mixtures that have worked particularly well for us this year. All were purchased from Parkers and planted in the autumn of 2019.
One: Ronaldo and Grand Perfection
Tulip Ronaldo came out slightly before Grand Perfection but the latter has now caught up and grown to a similar height.
Two: Pink Blend
This is one of Parker’s off-the-shelf mixtures so I am not entirely sure of the names of each of the varieties included.
Three: Purple Prince and Princess Irene
Princess Irene was much later and shorter than Purple Prince and initially we thought that this combination was not going to work very well. However they have now grown to a similar height and are looking lovely together in terracotta pots backed by a perennial planter of blue-grey foliage and purples.
Four: Merlot, Marilyn and Maytime
One of our own combinations that we have used over a number of years in the old rose garden.
Five: Van Eijk Mixed
Six: Apricot Pride and Stunning Apricot
These are two varieties that we have not tried before and they have proved to be lovely together sitting amongst the blue forget-me-nots.