Easter Greetings!

 wpid-20130330_172239-1.jpgAfter a week of almost nightly snowfalls, the garden has been slow to shed its white mantle, very different from late March last year when we enjoyed temperatures in the low 20’s C.

Much of the garden is still snow-covered, with the area between the yew hedges and the shade border still covered by 3-4 inches. Most of the lawn too is still covered, although nearly all the ground outside the walls is now snow-free, as are the south-facing borders in the walled garden, where the sun has had an effect.

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The shade border remains snowbound!

Despite daytime temperatures struggling to exceed 5 degrees and overnights dropping to -4 degrees or so, marked by opaque, frosted greenhouse glass, the garden is gradually coming back to life.

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the alpine primulas

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P. denticulata

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Flowering currant

Almost as soon as the snow disappeared off the alpine querns, the primulas with their simple blue flowers and serrated leaves have burst into bloom. Indeed, it is primula time of year, with the polyanthus continuing to try to put on a show, and the P. denticulata pompoms starting their journey skywards. The first daffodils have made it just in time to adorn the Easter table and the flowering currant has continued to push out it drooping blossom.

Meanwhile, the first of the herbaceous continues to produce its early ‘tufts’ of new growth, a welcome sight in the bare borders.

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the photogenic Polyanthus

In the greenhouse, some welcome sunshine in the last few days has finally triggered the sweet peas, leeks and early lettuce from their torpor. Despite no real warmth outside, the temperature in the greenhouse today reached a very acceptable 18 degrees C, so we have continued with our seed-planting – herbaceous perennials and some biennials at this stage. The summer bedding and perennials requiring a little more warmth to germinate we’ll do in 2-3 weeks’ time, when the overnight temperatures are comfortably in positive figures.

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Tree paeony bud

While growth has been held back this year (we still have some very decent snowdrops and even aconites in bloom), a succession of very cold nights has had some benefits. We should see fewer pests this year and after a very wet winter, the soil has been nicely ‘freeze-drying’ which should make it quite friable for putting in the new trees and shrubs we purchased a few weeks ago, still sitting in their pots awaiting release!

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the Walled Garden during the week

Spring perhaps is finally here.

The weather forecast hints that we may now have seen the last of the winter snows. Perhaps, for those in similar climes, this is the same for you?

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dark-leaved Hellebore

Wishing you a very Happy Easter!

Seasonal notes…

HonestyHaving finished all the winter work on the fruit trees and bushes, this last couple of weekends we’ve been pushing on with tidying the herbaceous borders in the Walled Garden.

I’ve been removing the fallen leaves that have wedged themselves in under shrubs, and been cutting back the stems of old perennials that have been pushed down by the wind and rain. The aim has been to try to keep some interest in the seedheads and stems that remain, rather than ‘clear-fell’ the borders. I’ve left seedheads from things like Phlomiswpid-20121118_122125.jpg, foxgloves, lupin and astilbe. They look quite good now that we’ve removed the rather ‘sad’ material.

One of my best value purchases a couple of years ago was a packet of Honesty (Lunaria) seeds. I grew up with this cottage garden biennial with its mass of cheery early spring purple and white flowers but we’ve never had it here. Flowering in its second year, we had an excellent show last summer but it’s at this time of the year, mid-winter, that it really comes into its own. The Good Lady took a picture of  its tranlucent, penny-shaped seed heads a couple of weeks ago and it positively glows on sunny days. When I was clearing the fallen leaves round the old Honesty plants last week, I was pleased to note a rash of new seedlings under each one, perpetuating their existance here in the garden.

At the end of February or March, I’ll revisit the borders and cut back the remainder of the old stems, so that they don’t detract from the flush of new herbaceous green that we’ll start to see then. It’s quite a while, though, until the spring and it’s nice to have some form and structureimage to look at when wandering round. This really comes into its own if we get some really hard frosts, where each stem and seedhead becomes ‘sugar-coated’ with hoar-frost, bringing a whole new dimension to the garden in winter.

As you’ll have gathered now from my fellow UK bloggers, last weekend saw a real touch of spring in the garden, with temperatures in the double figures Celsius – most unusual for early January. With high overnight temperatures too, there’s been quite a lot of growth with polyanthus, primulas and tree paeonies showing early buds, and a flush of fresh green on the grass. While I was working outside last Saturday, I noticed the first Winter Aconite (Eranthis) flowering – a real harbinger of spring, and then during the course of 3 hours or so, a whole host of these cheerful yellow flowers started pinging up – one moment, there’s nothing; the next an instant flower! Are these the fastest growing flowers in the world, I wonder?

wpid-20121201_103753-1.jpgThis week, the temperatures have returned to normal (low degrees Celsius) and, in the cold light of dawn, I see white frost on the lawn and the greenhouse roof. Some snow is forecast for the early part of next week, and the sky looks threatening…