We spent last week preparing the garden for our open day for the National Gardens Scheme on 17th April. Imagine my despair when we were greeted by not only a steady downpour on Saturday 16th but also by a flurry of snow and the prospect of an overnight frost. How was Mr. B. ever going to get the grass cut and would the tulips stand up to the battering? The rain stopped mid-afternoon and by 6.00pm the grass was cut and the edges done. We draped fleece over the most vulnerable plants, including the blossom on a couple of apple trees, and went to bed with fingers crossed.
On Sunday 17th April we woke to ……blue skies and sunshine. What a change and a perfect day. We had 240 enthusiastic visitors. The day was a tremendous success.
The marsh marigolds, snakes-head fritillaries, oxlips and white hybrid skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus x camtschatcensis) in the marshy bed at the edge of the pond were a real hit.
Pond and marsh marigolds
Snakes-head fritillaries, skunk cabbage and oxlips in the marshy bed.
The tulips stood up to the weather without shedding a petal and we even sold a quantity of freshly pulled rhubarb (an excellent early variety passed on to me by mother and acquired by her from a Mrs. Wright in Newtownards, N. Ireland- I believe that my parents lived in her house soon after they got married).
Mulching is an essential spring activity – and very good exercise. I use Mr. B’s excellent compost, large amounts of well-rotted manure and fine gravel. The gravel has the added advantages of both deterring slugs and breaking up this heavy Oxfordshire clay. Plants such as Pulsatilla vulgaris and the dwarf narcissus ‘Minnow’ really appreciate the added protection of a collar of free-draining gravel.
Hot bed with gravel mulch
The wet bed is full of snakes-head fritillaries (Fritillaria melagris)- mostly purple- and a band of cheery marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) edges the top of the pond. Both are British natives. Water hawthorn (Aponogeton distachyos) with oval floating leaves and scented white flowers is extending across the surface of the pond. We counted at least 20 great crested newts in our small pond – we do the count by torch light at night when the newts, with their crests and distinctive silver flashes on their tails, are near the surface.
Water hawthorn and Marsh marigolds
Snakes head fritillary
We are winding up for the National Garden Scheme opening on Sunday 17th April. I have been talking to my tulips, encouraging them to open a little more, and to my daffodils, encouraging them to just hang on one more week. It all depends on the weather- too warm and the daffodils will have long gone, too cold and the tulips will not have fulfilled their promise. Fingers are crossed.