The garden is welcoming and colourful with spring flowers of all sorts including self-seeded dog violets (Viola riviniana) and primroses (Primula vulgaris), Ipheion uniflorum, both blue and a purple form (‘Froyle Mill’), Anemone blanda– my Mum’s blue variety and a very large-flowered white form (‘White Spendour’ ), Muscari armeniacum including the very pale ‘Valerie Finnis’ and pale blue Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica (I can never remember this mouthful of a name). The lovely dog’s-tooth violet (Erythronium ‘Pagoda’) is also just opening.
A tiny clump of 6 x Scilla siberica are slowly spreading under the apple tree. Chicken wire protects the sky-blue flowers from marauding wood pigeons or the lone pheasant that frequents the garden. My mum’s Chionodoxa luciliae spread without any help from me adding a cheery splash of blue in unexpected places.
The lime green flowers of the dramatic tall Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii really stand out at this time of year. I have a self-seeded euphorbia which I suspect is Euphorbia characias with characteristic black nectar glands.
I am disappointed by the lack of flowers on my Mum’s Iris unguicularis (stylosa) in the bed by the back wall of the cottage. It did so well last year. I am not sure what has gone wrong as I paid it special attention, removing the old dead leaves and generally tidying up. This seems to have been a mistake so my attempts at care will not be repeated. Or perhaps it was just the exceptionally dry summer? Anyway I am going to ignore the clump this year and let nature take its course. A smaller clump in a more exposed, and therefore slightly less dry, site has managed to produce a few of the very welcome pale blue scented flowers.
The intriguing deep purple and green flowers of the Widow Iris, Hermodactylus tuberosus, are evident in the bed alongside the drive. My attempts to spread the seed seem to be working and more are appearing, albeit slowly.
Most narcissi have done well, but I have particularly enjoyed the remarkably large-flowered hoop petticoat daffodil, Narcissus bulbacodium ‘Oxford Gold’ from Avon bulbs, which I have grown in a pot for the first time, and the expanding clump of delicate Narcissus fernandesii var. cordubensis under the maturing silver birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, which is finally developing the silvery bark for which it is renowned. The clump of the dwarf Narcissus nanus ‘Midget’ on my rock bed continues to enlarge and the tiny Narcissus ‘More and More’ has just opened. There are plenty of other larger narcissi, many naturalised beneath the apple trees in our strip of “meadow” alongside the drive, but some of these clumps produce more leaves than flowers. I must sort these out.
Newts and fritillaries
The new pond is full of newts, mostly great-crested I think, returning for the mating season before they disappear into the garden again. I counted at least 30 the other night.
To my delight, the snakes-head fritillaries, Fritillaria meleagris, have coped with the upheaval of redoing the pond. Despite being dug up and replanted into new soil they are flowering happily. My few Crown Imperials-Fritillaria imperialis ‘Lutea’ and Fritillaria imperialis ‘William Rex’ are also doing exceptionally well- the best year ever. The hot summer obviously suited them and the slugs and snails have not done their worst……. yet.
Colour and Scent
It has been a fantastic year for my Dad’s two camellias – Camellia japonica ‘Sylvia’ (crimson) and Camellia × williamsii ‘Donation’ (pink) – in their tubs of loam for acid-loving plants. They have been in flower for weeks. The Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, has been equally good but with the added benefit of scent which has richly perfumed the area around the front door, especially in the evenings.
Apart from pruning, weeding, mulching, feeding and even watering, I am planning what to purchase when we go to the Great Malvern Show. I would like to acquire more primulae and irises for the refurbished marsh bed to replace all those that were lost when the dreaded Houttuynia strangled everything. I have also, after some delicate negotiations with Mr B, managed to extend the hot bed in the bottom garden ever so slightly so there is room for some Mediterranean drought-tolerant plants which will do so much better than his lawn. Watch this space!