“Oh, spring is surely coming,
Her couriers fill the air;
Each morn are new arrivals,
Each night her ways prepare;
I scent her fragrant garments,
Her foot is on the stair.”
~ John Burroughs from ‘I hear the wild geese honking’
Spring was late this year. In March we had two unlikely falls of snow, unheard of in this part of Cornwall and the heaviest for four decades in the county. I knew instinctively that this did not bode well for my more tender plants and indeed my losses include the Geranium maderense; several half-hardy fuchsias; two osteospermum (the orange and the purple); an orange arctotis; a variegated Erysimium which was probably past its best anyway; several succulents including a new one only bought last June; a terracotta coloured Achillea, an old lavender and most of the ‘baby’s tears’ or ‘mind-your-own-business (Helxine soleirolii ) that covered the small woodland walled border.
Time to take stock.
The woodland border is looking better due to the extra miniature narcissus I planted in the autumn, namely ‘Rip van Winkle’ and ‘Minnow’ and ‘ Segovia’ along with ‘Glory of the Snow’ (Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Blue’) which adds some much needed colour and brightness to the border. Several primula which were planted last spring after being used as bedding plants in the tulip pots have, much to my surprise, established themselves and are flowering pretty much all year round. They are a little ragged looking due to the nibbles from the S&S, but hopefully their numbers have been hit by the unusual weather. The Pulmonaria which I tackled last year, cutting back most of the blackened foliage, grew anew and is looking good. The pretty delicate blue flowers riding above the spotted leaves. All the ferns in the wall and border were blackened and I have just removed all the old leaves to reveal new fronds. My Hellebore niger suffered, but has since sprung back and several seedlings which I planted when I first moved in are now showing signs of growth, I am hoping they might flower next year. I also split and planted several Heuchera along this border and they too are slowly growing and a ‘Bleeding Heart’ (Dicentra spectabilis now reclassed as Lamprocapnos spectabilis) has been moved from a container in the front courtyard into this border and it appears to be growing well. The Anthemis daisy plant which smothered much of the wall last year sadly also fell foul to the weather, though it is a hardy little beast and cuttings take easily so I do have more smaller plants growing and in bud. And the hardy geraniums along this border are definitely hardy. I have just planted several new ones in the style of the famous gardener Margery Fish who once said, “if in doubt plant a Geranium” in the hope that they act as a weed suppressant.
And after pruning the two Goat Willow trees close to the patio, the light that has let in to the border has enabled several clematis to produce new growth. I am crossing my fingers that the honeysuckle and clematis along the fence flower well this year after a disappointing show last year. The final additions to this border were several plantings of Common Bugle (Ajuga reptans ) ‘burgundy glow’ which I put in last autumn and which were immediately snacked on. They do appear to be making a comeback though and I am encouraging them to spread across any bare earth to try and block out all the weeds that seem to land here.
Elsewhere in the garden little has changed, other than holes waiting to be filled with new plants in May. I have just noticed that my hardy fuchsia, which I also believed lost, is sprouting new shoots from the ground, so I shall wait a while longer before removing any of the others (just-in-case). Several large grasses have been removed, with some effort I can tell you, because they were taking over. I like grasses in a garden as I like the movement in the wind, but thugs I don’t need. And next month I shall be planting some Salvias and new Osteospermum – this time the hardy variety!
Final touches to the garden this month has seen the addition of some snowdrops and aconites under the Kilmarnock Willow tree, planting of some sweetpeas and clearance of the lawn from around the additional raised beds used at the moment for summer annuals and winter salad and baby spinach which I must say kept us in greens all through the winter time.
So what have I learned so far about this garden?
- the soil is very heavy though not clay
- the soil is rich and holds moisture
- bog plants grow well here
- slugs and snails (S&S) are pests
- direct seed sowing doesn’t always germinate
- kale and radishes grow well in summer; winter salad leaves and spinach in winter
- new plants need protection from things that eat them
- Mediterranean plants do better in the sunny rock wall (little soil, easy drainage)
- native plants are good for bees and butterflies
Next month I am hoping to clear my raised beds and re-create one as a white garden and the other with edible and aromatherapy herbs. And finish gravelling around my gravel garden. Tomatoes and chillies are having a break this year as I want to replace the conservatory roof and I don’t want to be having to move loads of pots about. And after a visit to the Japanese Garden I am secretly coveting one or two Japanese Acers to put into containers for the courtyard garden.