in my garden | april

“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.

Kilmarnock Willow tree

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.



  1. restlessjo says:

    Never finished, a garden, is it? And I suppose that’s one of the joys. Playing with the pallet. It all looks very fetching from what I can see, and I love the fact that you’ve got the old stone walls to plant into. 🙂 🙂 Very nice! Acers have been another area of disaster for us, though I love them with a passion. Maybe that’s it? Loving things too much. 🙂 Better with a smoke bush. Enjoy, Jude!

    1. Heyjude says:

      I like smoke bushes, do they like shade I wonder? The walls are lovely with the moss and then the ferns. It’s not usually this noticeable because of them, but they all died back this year along with the ‘baby’s tears’. Quite hard to plant into though as lots of tree and shrub roots. However, I shall keep on trying to get some ground cover there! The opposite wall gets all the sun and no shade so I can grow the plants that like a drier condition there.

      1. restlessjo says:

        Our smoke bush is in the little front garden so full sun, when it’s about. Same with Lisa’s xx

        1. Heyjude says:

          Ah, probably not for me then. I need shrubs for the courtyard which is north-facing. Not deep shade, but never any direct sun. And they will have to go into containers too as no soil.

  2. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Your garden is looking charming Jude, even if it is boggy and wet. I love the stone wall and the area behind the willow tree. I’m reading about white gardens and wondering if I should make serious changes to my garden as everything is jumbled in together…..!

    1. Heyjude says:

      My garden is like an extension of the surrounding countryside (Including wild flowers / weeds) with granite boulders and standing stones! My intentions to create something else in my head have now settled into what suits the plot. My colour palette was all over the place, but as things have died I can at least bring some order into that aspect!!

  3. Leo says:

    Beautyful pictures…

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Leo 🙂

  4. Tish Farrell says:

    Despite the losses, this all looks very promising, Jude. Lots of lovely niches. Let’s hope, weather-wise, that it’s happy gardening here on in.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Tish. I feel as though I am coming to know the garden now and adjusting my plans accordingly. They say it takes five years to make a garden, I reckon the speed I’m going it will take double that!

      1. Tish Farrell says:

        I’ve rather come to settle for having extra good bits of the garden at particular times of year. In between, I walk through it to the allotment! Not really my ideal by any means. Still waiting on shed man to finish the necessary flower bed makeover – ie building more raised bed wall as necessitated by the building of the shed. He says he’s waiting for the tulips to finish flowering. I’ve heard some excuses…

        1. Heyjude says:

          Had a bit of a disaster with the tulips this year, either the wind or ‘something’ has snapped off the heads of several blooms. Someone mentioned squirrels do this, but I have only ever seen one squirrel here.

        2. Tish Farrell says:

          I know squirrels eat the bulbs, but as to head snapping – that’s a mystery.

  5. beetleypete says:

    You get so much from that small garden, it’s always a pleasure to see. We had some nice large tulips come up late, but they didn’t seem to like the heat last week.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      The heat was far too much for the tulips, some got quite sunburned and shrivelled up. Such a shame. And now something (wind/bug/beast) is cutting the heads off mine. Next year I’m going for daffs.

  6. bushboy says:

    A lovely garden. I love the mossy rocks on the woodland border

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Brian. I guess that demonstrates how wet it is! My own ‘woodland’ 🙂

  7. Pit says:

    What a wonderful garden you have! Unfortunately we can’t have such beautiful flowers as the deer would eat them. But then, we have the wonderful view of deer grazing in our garden, which we wouldn’t want to miss, and soon – hopefully – some fawns again.
    Thanks for sharing the pictures of your flowers.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Animals can be just as rewarding and probably a whole less work!

      1. Pit says:

        True but … nice flowers would be great, too.

        1. Heyjude says:

          You can share mine Pit 🙂

  8. Pete Hillman says:

    These are fabulous, Jude! You sure have a lovely garden there, with many different beautiful blooms showing, despite all that snow. I have never seen Grape Hyacinths that lighter shade of blue before.

    1. Heyjude says:

      That pale blue is a lovely contrast to the deeper shade and they have both lasted for weeks. Well worth the money.

  9. Ali says:

    Just stunning. My favourites are your tulips and Erysimum, and your willow.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank you Ali. The willow is very cute and I love the way it is at the moment with all the leaves on the ends of the branches like a ballerina’s skirt.

  10. As a botanically-challenged person (I can probably tell the difference between a rose and a daffodil but that’s the extent of my knowledge), I am in awe of your garden and your knowledge of what is in it. It looks fabulous. I’m about to landscape an area in the backyard. Can you come over and advise me on what to plant? Ah, but then, we’re heading into winter and I suppose you’ve had quite enough of that season.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I’d love to H, but I know better than to leave this garden during the warmer months: things happen!! Good luck with the planting! You first have to figure out what the soil type is, then how the sun moves around the space, then how much work you want to do maintaining it and then buy the appropriate plants. Easy peasy!!

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