Autumn used to be the time gardeners stormed through their gardens tidying everything away ruthlessly. However, since Piet Oudolf taught us all to love autumn grasses and winter seed heads, things have shifted to an end of February clear up instead, which is actually a very satisfactory time to clear everything away and make way for the new gardening year powering in.
Tiny poppy seeds skeleton no bigger than my little finger found whilst clearing away winter debri
This is the best time to cut down ornamental grasses, and to observe close up all the bulbs and perennials you may have forgotten about pushing up through the soil already.
Whilst the great spring tidy is underway one has time to really appreciate everything that is getting started. Here in my south-facing border the massed planting of tulips are all getting away from the starting blocks, with leaves of Gladiolus byzantium edging the path…
And in this image you can really see the layers of the border in the making – Ballota in the foreground, Centaurea and Aquilegia in the middle, and alliums, tulips and bearded iris in the background – all just in leaf at the moment, but a study in the different qualities of spring green, to lift the spirits and wet our appetite for the summer show to come.
Here bearded irises, Asphodeline, Eremurus and daylilies are all pushing up in my ‘bakers’ bed’ at the start of March..
and in the same stretch of bed, photographed from the other side, a few weeks later, the bearded irises have advanced rapidly as well as the Asphodeline in the foreground.
Dicentra spectabilis is also starting to come back – a very tough and reliable do-er.
And the beauty of Alchemilla mollis emerging from winter has a dolls-house quality as its leaves are initially so miniature.
As well as all this wonderful greenery, there are some significant flowering highlights for this early spring period in my garden which include –
Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’
The wonderful acid green of Euphorbia characias wulfennii …
Viola - great self-seeders and all round survivors
The native primrose which I inherited and which self seeds itself everywhere with grace and ease and is tougher than it looks
And, of course, last but not least, daffodils the cheery harbringer of spring no garden can be without!
Narcissus ‘Jenny’ in front, and ‘Jetfire’ behind
I have also re-vamped the planting directly under my Quince tree having removed a huge Anemanthele lessoniana which was taking up alot of soil space (I already have four of its offspring self seeded in the garden!) so that I could plant more hellebores for spring, more snowdrops and for the first time, Japanese anemones, as I have never grown these wonderful plants before. This spot will be shady for them, along with perennial foxgloves grown for me from seed by my mother. I look foward to reporting back on this new planting as the summer progresses and in future springs.
Since I last wrote in the winter depths of February I have also celebrated my birthday…
Gorgeous flower cakes by my talented mother
…got an A grade for my KLC Garden Design course second module project (hurray) and got a new external down pipe for my boiler pressure tank. I only mention this last apparently incongrous happening, because it, of course, presented a planting opportunity! (for another Clematis armandii to keep my Clematis tangutica company – presently cut to the base ready for its new growth).
Meanwhile at my Client’s garden the wonderful magnolia is out…
And I have done my first fruit tree pruning which was rather exciting. I followed Monty Don’s advice about birds being able to fly through the middle of your fruit tree and also my American fruit tree book [ Fruit Trees in Small Spaces by Colby Eierman ] which talks about all fruit trees aspiring to an ‘open gesture’ shape. The end result was satisfying, and a start on trees that had not been pruned in quite a while.
And the south-facing window bed planted in October is coming into its own nicely, with Euphorbia robbiae looking very lush and thriving in the centre of this image.
Next month I have been asked to write a piece for KLC’s Blog as a guest writer so do drop by here in due course to read that.
And, of course, I will be off to Chelsea Flower Show in May, from which I will be happily reporting – until then, happy spring gardening!
Miniature watercolour daffodil by my youngest son, Josiah Williams