Spring is busting out all over – end of the month view, March 2012

Even before the amazingly warm weather of the last week, I couldn’t keep pace. Not a cat in a warm greenhouse’s chance of sitting on the bench in the background and appreciating things, which is just as well –

because there’s a new tree just in front of it.

Well, not so that it blocks access to the bench, but it certainly partly blocks the view. It was intentional, I’m afraid; I’m lucky enough to be a bit careless of my views and it was the best place for it.

The tree is an eirin bach, the little wild plum which is very common round here. The fruit are like a gage in size, lovely and sweet, but with a damson tang, colour and bloom. Delicious. Fab in a jam, but sweet enough to eat warm from the tree.

Yerrrs, I think I’m counting my eirin bach before the fruit has set. Ahem.

We moved a couple of small trees from the wonderful garden of some friends in the next village, and we got them straight in here. They were a little big to move – necessitated by some landscaping – and we weren’t sure they’d survive, but they look really healthy (helped by P, the Pruning King). Fingers welded together. They should be fine.

There’s one thing about having a spring garden which can be a disadvantage – you’re frantically busy with other things when you also want to get all your veg seeds going, clear the kale, get the spuds in, not forget about the shallots or the onions, and what about the broad beans – phew. At least it’s easier to get to the greenhouse now, as there are some new stepping stones set into the grass:

The slope down to the greenhouse had deteriorated to the point where it was a bit like a kids’ ice slide, only with mud. Perfect for bum surfing. Lovely.

As is the magnolia in the bottom garden, and this time I’m not being ironic. At the start of last week there was the occasional bud almost ready to burst. Within a day or two, it was in full OTT bloom and draping itself over the roof of the old pigsty.

In its way, this is also a reminder to get on and do stuff. We’ve already emptied the log store, which automatically turns it into a lawnmower house for the season. But I need to sort out the pots and the lilies which are just next to it, and as for what’s actually in the pigsty – hmm. There’ll be more broken pots than I remembered, at least two bin liners full of miscellaneous rubbish that should really have been slung in the autumn, quite a lot of string and a pot trolley. I know there’s a pot trolley, because it’s close enough to the doorway for me to see it round the wheelbarrow and the giant bamboo pyramid that shelter outside the pigsty in the winter.

It’s all too depressing to contemplate (happily my slowly recovering hand gives me the perfect alibi when it comes to heavier work), so I’m contenting myself with meadow maintenance, seed sowing and never-ending dandelion removal.

The meadow is glorious this year, and I’m sure the sheer number of dandelions in it is diminishing.

On the other hand, so is the number of fritillaries, though that could simply be a function of this rather strange year. I’ve had barely a sniff of a frost – at no point has the ground been really frozen. The ones I have got are exquisite, though.

They are the most bizarre flowers – and, I think, some of the most beautiful. I’ve got some whites as well, but it’s the implausibility and precision of the chequered pattern on the purples which I love. I’ve got about the same number of purples as last year, but not so many whites. I’d normally expect an increase of both.

Maybe it’s just not been cold enough.

Lots of people are reporting blind daffs this year, and I’ve certainly got disappointing clumps which are normally prolific. Usually the Rosa rugosa hedge is full of doubles; this year there are lots of leaves and only three flowers. Most odd; hopefully we’ll be back to normal next year and I’m sure it’s down to the average winter temperature. But again, I have had some beauties, even if they’re being coy (this one reminds me of Lauren Bacall, all it needs is a cigarette):

I’m looking at it as quality (though not at a flower show level of perfection, oh well) over quantity. And a lot of them have been eaten, as I’ve already noted. Earwigs, baby snails – and today I spotted another reason.

Next Door’s Cat. Snacking. That animal is strange.

I don’t think, however, that it’s been responsible for the tulips as well. That could be birds, but fortunately the buds that are opening now are being ignored…

It’s a mystery, and I’m so glad that whatever it was has given up. I’m not sure what these tulips are – well, apart from high camp – as they were some cheapies I bought to go in tubs and then planted out. I am amazed by how often I do this successfully; I’ve always thought they wouldn’t flower again, and over the years I must have needlessly discarded lots.

This year’s pots are also full of some reduced-price tulips, and they are so wonderfully hot that they seem to raise the nearby temperature.

However, they do present me with a problem. They clash with everything that’s in the beds; maybe I’ll just have to keep them in containers. I’m sure I will really appreciate them when the weather gets colder, as is anticipated next week. The end of March has been very odd – the nearby town of Porthmadog was the hottest place in the UK one day, at well over 20 degrees C – but I’m not complaining. It’s been so refreshing to have dry weather and clear blue skies.

Er – clear skies except when they’re burning off the gorse behind us:

My village is directly in the path of that lot (just call it Pompeii). I wondered why it was getting gloomy above us while it was quite clear and sunny when I looked northwest, and I found out when I went to work. It was a beautifully controlled burn, though – honest.


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh so much to say! Love your magnolia. I have bothered about magnolia here. They might not fit yet I love them and don’t know whether to go with the love or be true to the place. One (in the native tree bed where it might be in the wrong place) is thriving, the other, in the cottage garden (could be right place) is looking sad and thin. Life eh?
    I have a lot of blind older daffs here too this year.
    Your glamorous tulips are just beautiful. Fab, fab fritillaries.
    Hope the hand continues to improve.

    1. kate says:

      I do love my magnolia – one of the things I inherited. In your position I’d be ever so tempted to go with the love, but I must admit that I do prefer the stellata, though maybe because that’s what I’ve got… I think my garden is too crowded for anything else, really, and you do need space to really appreciate the big ones. You’ve got that…

      Someone else with a lot of blind daffs – almost everyone I know is saying that now (well, except for the ones who don’t have daffs, dur). It’s a very odd year, and now we have snow in Scotland.

  2. paulinemulligan says:

    What a wonderful number of beautiful flowers, your meadow is a delight!
    I don’t know about you in Wales, but my Fritillaries have suffered from a lack of rain, was wondering if I had lost the lot at one time, eventually they came, but not quite as many.
    We used to live in North Wales a long time ago, and burning of the heather was a familiar sight, but not nice when it is coming towards you!!

    1. kate says:

      Thank you! This is definitely the best time in my garden, but I’m working on the other seasons. The meadow is special, and my strategy of not mowing / strimming till September really seems to be paying dividends (plus it’s a lot easier on the back / hands / environment). I don’t think rain can be the reason for my fritillaries’ relatively subdued performance, because we’ve been quite wet until recently. Ah – maybe the ‘recently’ is a clue?

      The first thing I noticed with the flipping gorse burn was the drop in temperature. I really was completely mystified, which is silly – I’ve lived here long enough, but how quickly you forget. Still, it looked spectacularly volcanic!

  3. croftgarden says:

    Lovely to see a garden full of flowers! As usual we’re weeks behind.must be something to do with the temperature. It might be chilly but the winter monsoon has abated – no real rain for a week, I fear a drought! But not yet, it’s started to rain.

    1. kate says:

      I’m sure your colours will catch up soon – mine came on quite suddenly in the end. And I’m right with you – I’ve not been complaining about the lack of rain at all, it’s been so refreshing (I realise this may shock people in parts of the south east, but large chunks of the UK have been quite wet).

      No drought here either – we’ve got drizzle today. Just perfect: we needed something, and this will do the job much more effectively than downpour.

  4. Kate you have some lovely spring flowers and blossom,

    I’m interested that you say fritilliria need cold that might be why the ones I planted didn’t grow as we don’t get very cold, I’ve never had as cold a winter here as in the South of England, never had as hot a summer either, Frances

    1. kate says:

      Spring is definitely this garden’s season of choice… but I am trying to add some later-season colour elsewhere. I’m assuming it’s been the temp with the fritillaries – it certainly is with the daffodils, and they seem to work together, in my garden at least.

      If course, it could also be mice. They seem to love fritillaries…

  5. wellywoman says:

    Great post. I love the sound of your wild plum, the blossom is beautiful and the thought of picking them warm from the tree… mmmmmm. I’ve noticed plants such as my forget me not are just not as big this year and wondered if it was because of the mild winter. I think a lot of plants didn’t get a period of dormancy that they need. Maybe it’s like us not getting enough sleep, they now don’t have the energy to put on a big display.

    1. kate says:

      Now that’s interesting – my forget-me-nots are quite small too. Mind you, a lot of my daffodils are very tall, much taller than usual. Lots of green sappy growth – I’m sure you’re spot on about dormancy. Fat chance this winter.

  6. easygardener says:

    I love Fritillarias and my oldest bunch generally have purple as the dominant colour but this year most are white. Quite strange. Your meadow picture looks really lovely.

    1. kate says:

      Oh how weird! I’m glad it’s not just me with the odd fritillary behaviour. Have you had any distorted flowers, I wonder? I have, and mostly with the whites.

      (I wish I could add scent to the post, because the meadow also smells fab. Mind you, I do have one friend who describes it as ‘old lady’s knicker drawer’ which I think is going a bit far. Bet her grandma used a primrose scent!)

  7. patientgardener says:

    I think you are being hard on yourself again – does it matter if everything doesnt get done? I wonder if the Frits got wet enough this winter. I know that in Oxford they grow in the meadows by the river which get flooded every year.

    The Magnolias seem to have been wonderful this year. I suspect its because there havent been any frosts to brown them off. My magnolia is only little and has the grand total of 3 flowers so I am quite jealous of yours.

    Thanks for joining in again this month

    1. kate says:

      Oh, it doesn’t really matter a damn, it’s just me being Ms Impossible Standards (which don’t extend to the housework, but there you go). You’re absolutely right – of course it doesn’t matter!

      I’d wondered about the wet and the frits, but here it’s been quite soggy this winter. The best frit patch is by the dip of an old watercourse, long dry as the stream was been diverted / channelled nearly 100 yrs ago, but it’s still a bit damper than the rest. Maybe it’s time for some fiddling with nature in the form of adding more bulbs in the same area… interesting…

  8. Dobby says:

    Hi Kate.Your garden looks fab.I would love an area to put a meadow in.
    Karen came round on Sunday and the first thing she noticed in my garden was the dreaded red lily beetle fornicating on my fritillaries! The bug killer was out of the shed quicker than a rat down a drain pipe. I also squashed the ones I could find between a couple of bits of slate. Hopefully the rest of the little buggers will get the message and go off somewhere else!

  9. Lyn says:

    Kate, I remember reading about your meadow in autumn and winter and really looking forward to seeing it in Spring – and there it is! And as fabulous as I had hoped. You have really got it right! I also remember the first time I saw a photograph of one of those purple chequered Fritillaries in a book – I could hardly believe it was a real plant. I don’t think they’re grown much in Australia, Ive never seen them here. Your Spring schedule of jobs sounds exhausting – makes me almost glad it’s autumn here and things are slowing down. Make sure you take time to stop and smell the flowers!

  10. I love your meadow it is looking pretty good right now – do you have lots of flower variation over the seasons – looking forward to seeing more pics. I have the same trouble with red tulips they look out of place somehow at this time of year – I’ve consigned mine to the allotment.

    1. kate says:

      I’m so glad I got lots of shots of it last week, as the weather is now behaving as though it was January. Wonder what will survive unscathed?

      I could do with paying more attention to the end of the year – anything from July on – in the whole garden; the meadow tends to look after itself and become beautiful with grasses, hawkweeds, etc. The tulips are an awkward one, aren’t they?

  11. Christina says:

    I love your fritillaries, you’re so lucky that they grow for you. Spring is so busy, hence that lateness of my own lateness in posting this month. Chirsitna

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it busy? I feel exhausted already and it’s just the start of April. I seem to be spending ages moving seed trays around to no great purpose…

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