Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I used to work with a lady who said that all the time. I think she sort of meant, ‘anywaaaay’, or perhaps it was just her way of reserving space on the crowded verbal airwaves of our department.Garden plan

Anywaaaay… to say that I’ve been thinking incessantly about our new garden would not be hyperbole. I think about it when I go to sleep. I think about when I wake up. During my lunch break at work, when everyone else is chatting or reading magazines, I design garden layouts on quadrant paper. I spend my weekends hauling cement blocks to the tip, levering root boles out of the ground, hoisting soil and sand and gravel about, in short doing a lot of the type of gardening that constitutes hard labour rather than the pretty sort of gardening that involves dividing, cultivating, deadheading, and planting seeds. That’s why I’m not showing you any photos of the new garden today. It still looks like a building site.

I think about the new garden so much that I have been forgetting that ‘back at the ranch’ I have a perfectly good garden that is doing all the delightful things that gardens do in early spring. So this morning I went out with my camera to pay them homage.

My esteemed hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ is coming into flower. I have cut back the old leathery leaves as one is supposed to do, to allow the new growth to shine forth in all its Neapolitan glory. IMG_0003I planted the hellebore in March 2014 and it has done pretty well in this corner. There are few advantages of having to stay in this flat for an extra few months while the renovation project goes on in the new flat, but one of them is that I may have time to divide this hellebore before we leave so that I can bring it with me.

Now, what on earth is this snapdragon doing out at this time of year? Is this normal? Yes, the garden is sheltered, but we’ve just had two weeks of a steady minus two degrees and there it goes still blooming away like it’s July. I’d like to divide this too, but I’m not sure that’s kosher for an antirrhinum (chime in if you know).

IMG_0005The crocuses are coming up. This north-east-facing front garden doesn’t get a lot of light at this time of year and I recall that last year these didn’t come out until a good few weeks after everyone else’s.

IMG_0006The snowdrops are coming out too, along with new shoots of the rather bossy Spanish bluebells that are simply everywhere in this garden.


Here are more snowdrops together with a charming primrose (and more bossy Spanish bluebells). I have divided this primrose and potted it up for the new garden.


The lobelia goes on and on, although it’s starting to look less sure of itself…


And here is one of my drum primroses stalwartly surviving the cold. I divided and potted these up for the new garden too.


IMG_0018And the roses, which I brutally pruned in Autumn, are also coming freshly in to leaf.

IMG_0008The hydrangea is too.


While watching it from a nearby window is a vaseful of its dried hydrangea flowers.


And the Skimmia japonica ‘Fragrans’ is budding, although the only fragrans I could smell was the laundry powder on the sheets that a girl was hanging out on the back green washing line as I took the photos.


Finally, tonight is Burns’ Night, so,

‘Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill o’ fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware

That jaups in luggies;

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r

Gie her a Haggis!’

14 thoughts on “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…”

  1. Lovely signs of new growth everywhere. Strange to see that antirrhinum in flower. I would try digging up the whole thing, but I’m not sure if it would transplant. I usually treat them like annuals – and occasionally leave them in for a couple of years if they look OK.

  2. You really have a lot of new growth for this time of year. I too have tiny buds on my hydrangea and roses, but your garden is much further ahead. I am like you, designing and hauling. It never stops….ever I think.

    1. I think our garden is quite sheltered, so the buds appear relatively early despite the lack of sunshine. I’ve seen no real frost in the garden, whereas other parts of the city were quite consistently and visibly below zero for several days running. I suppose if the designing and hauling stopped we would all have to think up a new hobby… so may it never stop!

  3. I hate to say it but you will probably never stop planning your garden now 🙂 Once it’s in your head, it never goes away!
    Nice to see your garden coming into spring. Our gardens are at a similar stage, which for obvious reasons is not surprising.
    Can I suggest you look into dividing your Hellebore. I was advised by a professional grower not to do them until September. It might be better to lift the whole plant into a pot (plenty of soil with it) and keep it well watered and move the whole thing to the new garden. I have a few of these H. x ericsmithii hybrids and they are not cheap, it would be a shame too loose it.

    1. Thanks Angie… the RHS suggests that September may be better for some varieties, early spring for others. I’ll have a look in to which category mine falls in to. I’m rather loathe to move established plants from the garden, it does seem mean for the new people who will come to live here. But for some reason I am just too attached to this hellebore so I may have to break this rule in its case.

  4. Your snowdrops are ahead of mine, which are only just working their way above soil level. I love the way their buds are so eager to open that they get going even before they reach daylight. Today’s garden survey also found my Rijnveldt’s Early Sensation narcissus, just the one flower still holding on in there since before Christmas, a few primroses, a periwinkle and one white camellia flower with – happy surprise! – a blue ipheion blooming below it.
    I love your garden plan, a judicious marriage of formality and relaxed planting. How big are the squares? A pear tree with a seat round it sounds just heavenly. Be careful of the clematis montana though, they are for big gardens. They rampage everywhere and to my mind are just a trifle dull and are not actually in flower for very long. The one I grew into the cherry plum pretty well reached the top before I called time on it.
    The little purple primrose is called Primula Wanda. Granny has some which she took from her father’s garden. From time to time she gives me bits, but I cannot keep them, they disappear beneath bigger things and never return. Keep an eye on yours, they are so pretty.
    I agree that it’s probably not possible to divide your remarkable snapdragon. Save some seed, it’s clearly and exceptionally hardy strain.
    Don’t worry about your skimmia – you’ll be able to smell it in about a month or so, and how! It is a gorgeous scent, like lily-of-the-valley.
    Lastly, those sweet peas : enemy no 1 is slugs and snails. As soon as those delicate little green antennae show above the compost out will come an evil slimy mowing machine and raze the lot to the ground. Eventually I took to germinating mine in the shed, and would you believe it a snail got in, and scoffed all the blue ones.

    1. You are right about the clematis montana, and in fact it’s not the one I want at all. I have painted the shed a lovely shade of pale sage grey called ‘Concorde Grape’ and what I actually want is that lovely dark bluey purple clematis against it. There’s one by our back door here, you know the one. Anyway, the frost killed my montana cuttings. The squares are twenty cm, and you will deduce that I have been fanciful about my regiment of box topiary, and the thousand other things that will certainly not all fit in. I was just doodling really.
      Well done on your camelia and other things. Have you tried planting different varieties of snowdrops?

      1. The dark bluey purple clematis is probably x jackmanii, richly coloured and without the dinner-plate flowers which make so many clematis a doubtful proposition. It should go splendidly with your grey-green shed and will be much easier to keep under control than montana
        Certainly there won’t be much room for the weeds, but your plan is not entirely unrealistic, especially as not everything will be above ground at once. You can reckon a four-square slot for a medium perennial, and a nine-square slot for a larger one. The acanthus will outgrow that if it is happy.
        Ah, snowdrops. Galanthophilia is an expensive habit which can be very hard to kick. See, for example,, or don’t depending on your strength of willpower. But, yes, I did once buy some interesting ones including a lovely double one. They’re all interbred now, and I hardly ever get single ones.

      2. Luckily for my wallet I am always quite satisfied with vanilla flavoured nivalis. How annoying if you spent lots of money on a fancy variety of snowdrop only for it to turn in to something else a few years later. Useful about plants in squares, although guaranteed all mine will be above ground at once, and then nothing for months. And yes, jackmanii looks familiar. I might try cuttings again, or garden centre, or both. Shed supposed to be grey-green, but looks suspiciously white after two VERY expensive coats, much to the B’s amusement.

  5. I am not surprised that you think of your garden plans non- stop. The wonder is that you get to sleep at all. I find that if I start thinking about a garden project in bed it keeps me awake all night.
    Skimmia flowers don’ t smell until they are fully open. I love the Ericsmithii hellebores. I would be nervous of dividing it though.

    1. I am glad it is not just me. I was starting to worry about my sanity. For some reason, thoughts about our privet hedge have been particularly intrusive.
      That’s two against dividing the hellebore. I could always just buy a replacement. It’s funny because it cost me £16 and I’d think nothing of spending 4 times that on a pair of shoes that might not last two years, yet for a plant it seems very expensive.

      1. Well I don’ t know whether I would go as far as thinking obsessively about a privet hedge.
        £16 seems expensive for a hellebore to me too.

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