Colourful but cold

Yes, Spring’s arrived – the clocks have changed, Gardeners’ World is back on Friday nights, the birds are singing – but it’s very cold. The wind, which has been in the north or north east for quite a while, really cuts through you even when the sun is shining. I heard that there was snow in Aylesbury earlier this morning. So, let’s not get too carried away.

Nevertheless, the first Tulips are up and about, really quite early. Their colour is more than welcome at the best of times, and these are definitely not the best of times; but their appearance in mid-March is also concerning. It’s almost certainly a product of the warming world we now inhabit, and something we’ll have to get used to in the short term at least. In Horatio’s Garden we have lots of Tulips, which are intended to pick up where the Narcissi (first ‘February Gold‘, then ‘Thalia’) leave off, and then carry the garden through to the beginning of summer. This year the sequence has got a bit compressed and muddled. I am still dead-heading ‘February Gold’ (and some are still looking good) even as some of the first of ‘Thalia’ are starting to fade. And the first Tulips are crashing the party too: ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Negrita’ and ‘Prinses Irene’ have been flowering for a week or more, and ‘Angelique’ is now showing well. The first flowers of ‘Purissima’ and ‘Ballerina’ are also starting to emerge, so we’re in for an amazing – if slightly anarchic – fruit cocktail of pinks, oranges and the rest within a few days.

Tucked away shyly is the species Tulip, Tulipa sylvestris, a very different character from its cultivated cousins. It comes originally from the Mediterranean and Central Asia, and is often called the ‘Wild Tulip’ or ‘Woodland’ Tulip. We have mixed success with it at Horatio’s Garden, and have planted more bulbs to build up the stock; although where it is really happy it will naturalise and spread quite freely. It grows well on the bank among Sesleria autumnalis (Autumn Moor Grass), and there is another patch under one of the two remaining Betula nigra. Short stemmed and quite delicate it is an unobtrusive flower, but up close you can detect its lemony scent and admire the pretty yellow blooms.

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