End of March View 2016

IMG_9886IMG_9885IMG_9884 Even as I edit these photos, which I took just four days ago, I can see that spring growth has already progressed. The skimmia buds have now opened almost completely, the drumstick primulas have grown another inch, and the hyacinths have stuck their chests out like indignant body-builders. Despite today’s stormy skies and my having to scrape the car windscreen of frost yesterday morning, the garden is blundering onwards in happy spring-time oblivion, well nourished by the weeks of sunshine we had throughout late February and March.

IMG_9891

Spring is for colour, and this native primrose, a self-seeded gleaning from my grandmother’s garden, clashes joyfully with its vermilion neighbour, a winter heather that has doubled in size this past year. A lilac drumstick primula prepares to leap like a slow motion Jack-in-a-box from its crown, and nearby several of its divisions do the same.

IMG_9892

IMG_9889

Spring is for bulbs, and hyacinths burst out through the gravel of their old wooden pot, while their diminutive cousins, grape hyacinths or muscari, stand proud of theirs.

IMG_9905

IMG_9890

 

IMG_9900

Spring is for scent, and a new Camellia ‘Silver Anniversary’, a Christmas present from my mother, competes with Skimmia Rubella for a prize in deliciousness.

IMG_9903IMG_9897IMG_9896IMG_9895

IMG_9893

Spring is for new replacing old, and while the hellebore blooms begin to fade, seedlings and cuttings have started to grow up and will soon need pricking out, and potted dahlias wait in rows in the cold frame for warmer times to come.

End of Month View is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener. Do visit her page and see how spring is cracking on in other people’s gardens.

IMG_9898IMG_9888IMG_9887

End of Month View: December 2015

IMG_0174

IMG_0171

Bare soil, the bare bones of the garden: winter is when your skills as a gardener are revealed. Anyone can fill a garden with flowers in July, but it’s not so easy to keep the garden interesting through the damp, dark winter months. My main criticism of mine is a lack of structure, which I could easily create with judicious placing of a few evergreen or otherwise interesting shrubs. On the other hand, since the winter months have been so mild, nature has lent a hand at keeping the garden alive. Look closely, and you can see spots of colour all over the garden.

IMG_0126

This little primrose has been flowering for months, ever since I brought it back from my grandmother’s Derbyshire garden in the summer.

IMG_0123

This cyclamen hasn’t quite found its home; this current spot beside the path and next to the rock lily is a placemarker until a better home turns up. I can see its cheery raspberry ripple flowers from the sitting room window.

IMG_0163

I was thrilled to find these shining berries on my Sarcococca confusa, ranging from deep red to chocolate brown.

IMG_0162

Bulbs have been shooting up relentlessly. Last year I planted three iris ‘George’ bulbs, and this year I am hugely lucky that they have divided themselves into six. Elsewhere, snowdrops, daffodils and and hyacinths are poking their way cautiously through the soil. My pots of bulbs are looking promising.

IMG_0165

And here, a good two or three months early, is the bright pink nose of a peony ‘Avalanche’!

IMG_0155

IMG_0134

Jobs have been stacking up during the month. My dahlia tubers are at last uplifted, and hanging upside-down on the inside of the shed door. After two weeks of this treatment I will cover the tubers in vermiculite and store them out of harm’s way till March, when they can be planted up again. (Many gardeners, especially in mild areas, don’t bother to uplift their dahlia tubers, but I am in fact planning to move mine to a sunnier spot. Besides, Scottish winters last just a month or two too long for me to wish to experiment with this.)

IMG_0158

IMG_0138

I have taken cuttings of my favourite salvia, and have lined up all the plants destined for my next project. Now is a fantastic time to go to the local garden centre and pick up bargains!

IMG_0135

Finally, one way of bringing colour to a drab winter garden is by planting up beautiful pots of the many plants that are at their festive best at this time of year. One of the many lovely Christmas gifts I received this year was a tiny hellebore from my uncle and aunt, and when I saw it I immediately remembered this page about planting pots for winter colour, which I’d bookmarked from one of my favourite blogs, The Frustrated Gardener. Greatly inspired by the gorgeous, homely arrangements therein, I made several of my own using similar plants: my little Christmas rose, Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’, variagated azalea (which will have the added bonus of pink flowers in spring), winter heather, white cyclamen, and finished off with trailing ivy. Pushing their way through this are some shoots of muscari to help extend the pots into spring time.

IMG_0139IMG_0140IMG_0142IMG_0149IMG_0141IMG_0144

End of Month View is hosted by Helen Johnston at The Patient Gardener, and I find it both wonderful and useful to visit the other gardeners who link in with Helen to see how they have managed the challenges that come at different times of the year.

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.

IMG_0009

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.

IMG_0034

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

IMG_0011

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.

IMG_0021

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

IMG_0024

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.

IMG_0031

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!’