A couple of weeks ago I posted a rather grumpy blog about my own garden – you can read it here if you’re interested. In short, I was disillusioned and despairing about the state of the garden, and frustrated by its failure to live up to what I wanted. I should say, frustrated by my inability to nurture it to the standard to which I aspired: any failing is mine, not the garden’s.
Suffice to say, I look out on the garden now and feel a whole lot better. The garden has turned a corner over Easter, and I now look ahead to enjoying it rather than it making me unhappy.
So what’s happened? Well, the first thing to say is that this happens every year. I mean that literally. The cycle of the year, as reflected in my garden, always leaves a bit of a ‘hole’ in the period up to April. That’s largely down to planting – and something I can easily remedy. I resolve, therefore, to plant more snowdrops and Eranthis to flower as early as possible. And to plant some more winter shrubs – Hamamelis is high on my list, as are some more red-stemmed Cornus. I am not the biggest fan of Narcissus, but I had some different varieties in pots and they definitely brightened things up – though some are in bud and have yet to flower. I will augment these with some other spring bulbs come the autumn – Chionodoxa luciliae does well, though there are only a scattered few at present. Primroses (Primula vulgaris) also do very well in our garden, so there are always plenty of them to cheer things (and me) up.
The flower that really says ‘spring is here’ for me is the Marsh Marigold or Kingcup (Caltha palustris) which grows in our small pond. I’ve grown these since I was a teenager – my parents’ garden then had a decent sized ‘wildlife’ pond (quite forward thinking really for the mid-70s) – and they hold a special place in my gardening affections. We’ve just made a mini wildlife pond at the allotment, and I hope to get some growing there too.
Of course the cycle of the year also means that there is now far more light and warmth now than there was a few weeks ago, so everything has ‘sprung’. The change to BST also has an effect, as one can be out in the garden of an evening, working or just pottering – but all the time seeing and sensing the emerging growth.
The greenhouse also leaps into life now. Yes, I sowed some Sweet Pea seeds on New Year’s Day, and several lots of seeds in February, but it’s only over Easter that the sowing season has really got going. The greenhouse is now (already) bursting with seed trays, and some of the early sowings have already been potted-on.
And there is colour. The front garden has emerged from its rather brown and twiggy dormancy into a much richer palette of purples, blues and greens. Rather bullyish plants like Heucheras, Hellebores, Muscari, Bluebells and Dwarf Comfrey are all jostling together to create a backdrop – while Snakes’ Head Fritillaries and Tiarella flower more delicately in their midst. Shrubs too get into their stride – either with blossom (Prunus Kojo-no-mai, Ribes sanguineum), or with foliage (Photinia ‘Red Robin’ and Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’) – as do some early Clematis. None of these are special plants in themselves, but they start to work together now to create something good.
There are some clumps of perennial wallflower too, adding a slightly racy splash of colour at key points. And there are bees everywhere. Whatever one’s misgivings about Dwarf Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum) – and it can be a thug – it’s value as a flower for bees early in the season is astonishing. (That Euphorbia must go though – and the path needs weeding, I know…).
One thinks of garden birds primarily as a winter feature, but there are more birds now than we’ve had in months. Long-tailed Tits foraging for spiders’ webs along the fence (they use them as nest material), and nesting Great and Blue Tits keeping themselves going with energy-boosting sunflower hearts from the feeders. A Garden Warbler turned up, and has hung around – a new ‘tick’ for the garden list, and the first recorded in Wiltshire this spring.
And tulips – red, pink, orange, crimson – in pots here and there, easily moveable to fill gaps or provide a point of interest.
I do tend toward gloom, but the garden in early April challenges even my melancholic nature. It is simply too full of promise to do otherwise.