Saturday, 28 February 2015

End Of Month View ~ February 2015


The word for this month is 'ANTICIPATION'. It's one that I think that should be sung loudly from the roof tops as we reach the end of February. It's that magical time before spring really takes off in giant irreversible strides, were there is still time to simply stand and stare. The days are getting longer, the birds are chirping away, the green bin awaits the first emptying of the year this week and all around the garden and in the cold frame there are signs of new growth.
Galanthus 'Blonde Inge'
February here has been hard to gauge but I think that it has been definitely colder and drier than it was in 2014. There has not been much in the way of wintry precipitation other than the odd bit of fleeting snow, sleet and hail but nothing that has caused serious problems. The most distracting feature of the weather has been cold winds from a northerly direction. I'm convinced that the older I become the more of a fair weather gardener I'm becoming. I definitely can't do wind even well wrapped up. However even on the foul days I've been able to get a daily flower fix from my special snowdrops in the greenhouse and here are just a couple more for the record. Not newcomers but old favourites in the shape of glanthus nivalis 'Greenish' and galanthus plicatus 'Percy Picton' :

Galanthus plicatus 'Percy Picton'

Whilst the former is probably just past its peak the latter is just getting there. It's a late flowering 'drop and unlike a lot of virescent snowdrops it's relatively easy to grow.
Galanthus nivalis 'Greenish'
Elsewhere in the garden the usual suspects are in flower - snowdrops, little irises, hellebores, crocuses, primroses and the pulmonarias are just joining in with the exception of pulmonaria rubra 'Redstart' which came into bloom in early December. Most of my crocuses are in pots and there are some that I think will be heading for the compost heap. They do not seem to be able to cope with the vagaries of the winter elements and have croaked before they have even got going. It's almost as somebody with big feet has stood on them flattening the flowers. I wonder if this has anything to do with the height of the crocus concerned and whether it's the taller varieties that suffer. More research is required but any suggestions of sturdy varieties would be appreciated. Another disappointment in the crocus stakes has been the hundred or so crocus tommasinianus 'Whitewell Purple' bulbs that were planted in the lawn last autumn. To date there are a grand total of two flowers - it must be those pesky squirrels again. Since then I've bought the odd clump or two ready made flowering bulbs in the hope that ready-made planting might thwart them.

Croaked!
Partying
The allotment has been sadly neglected. Where have I heard these word before? Just getting about the site during the winter months remains a challenge as the main paths are so waterlogged. I'm anxious to avoid a repeat of the experience of a fall I had a couple of years ago. Perhaps I'm being over cautious but the plan is to wait until the days are slightly warmer when the standing water starts to evaporate. There will be much to do when I do get there.

Seed sowing has not got off the ground yet but that is a deliberate decision which I will come on to in a future post. At the moment the greenhouse space is occupied by the special snowdrops, a few overwintering cuttings and autumn sown seedlings as well as pots of dahlia tubers which will be kick-started into action come April. I've planted 'Red Sun' and 'Golden Gourmet' shallots in cells this morning and they will head to the allotment in due course. Next job on the list is to make a start on dividing and replanting some of the clumps of snowdrops which are now partially obscured by the gabion wall. Meanwhile it never ceases to surprise me just how well the snowdrops on the other side of the stream continue to flourish without any attention. The stream borders the garden and dotted along its banks are clumps of snowdrops.

Divide Me!
Streamside 
Plant purchases this month have been more named snowdrops (surprise, surprise), the afore-mentioned crocus clumps, helleborus 'Anna's Red' and chaemoneles speciosa 'Yukigoten' which promises creamy double flowers followed by yellow quinces later in the year. I can't wait! I've also been the fortunate recipient of several snowdrops from a fellow snowdrop lover and good friend who reads this blog. Thank you :)

Meanwhile going back to that word anticipation my attention is on the daffies that you can see in the top photo. Starter for St. David's Day or not? Only one more day to find out!

As always a big thank you to Helen over at the 'The Patient Gardener's Weblog' who came up with the inspirational idea of sharing our end of month views. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

In A Vase On Monday ~ On Cloud Nine


After a thoroughly turbulent and testing Sunday weather wise Monday has dawned here bright and sunny albeit on the cold side. There has been a chance to whizz round the estate for a quick recce and to bring in a few hellebore flowers to float on a cloud.


Apart from the recently purchased 'Anna's Red' - left hand bottom, the others all come from unnamed plants which have crept into the garden over the years.  One or two I think have been grown from seed. Next to 'Anna's Red' is a favourite speckled white, which was a gift many years ago from the owner of an excellent local nursery now sadly closed. The deeper plum coloured one is the first hellebore I planted in the garden so I have a soft spot for that too. We had to dig up the original plant but this a flower from one of the divisions it mase.

The cloud was a present made by a talented artist friend and is resting temporarily on a scarf/shawl thingy which always reminds me of the night sky.

Thanks as always to Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' for  enabling us to share our flowers and foragings every Monday. Do visit and enjoy the other winter 'vases' that other bloggers will be posting about today.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ February 2015


"You can't say that you can't grow a plant until you have killed it at least three times" was a memorable maxim from a formidable plantswoman Thelma Kay, who spoke at a Hardy Plant Society meeting I attended many moons ago. Thelma managed to cajole many tender plants to grow in her north Manchester garden and no doubt had more than a few casualties on the way. So as it's February, peak time for snowdrops, here are a couple more, both of which have recently returned to the fold for a second attempt.

Above is galanthus 'Cowhouse Green' which apparently can be miffy and difficult to establish. There are conflicting stories about its origin including one that the bulb was found near a cowhouse hence the name. Would it have withstood the heavy trampling of hooves if that was so? Still it's a most appealing tale. I'm not sure how long my first 'Cowhouse Green' survived but think it was a couple of years. In that short period of time it became one of my favourites.


The second which you can see above is galanthus plicatus 'Trym', which I know I had as long ago as 2009 possibly before. It was one of the casualties of the cold 2010/2011 winter and I've hankered for a replacement since. My potted collection of snowdrops was outside that year rather than under cover which resulted in major losses and much wailing from me. Now I bring them in to the greenhouse for the colder months of the year, although they will have to be turfed out soon so seed sowing can commence in earnest. You can see that 'Trym' has decidedly different shaped petals to most other snowdrops. It has been a significant breeding plant because of this feature.

Both replacement bulbs came as dormant bulbs last summer from Avon Bulbs. Fingers crossed that I will be able to feature them again this time next year. If not they will be on their final warning!

Thanks as always to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who kindly hosts this monthly meme, so we can share what's blooming in our gardens or in my case this month in my greenhouse. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

She Who Dithers


Shrieks of delight pierced the tranquility of our local garden centre last Sunday morning as my eyes alighted on helleborus 'Anna's Red'. Fortunately we were the only hardy perennials who had the bitingly cold outdoors area so no damage was done to anybody's hearing. Oh joy of joys - this plant had been way up on my wish list for a couple of years! Not only because of its name but also because of all that I had read about this beautiful comparatively new introduction. Named after the gardening writer Anna Pavord, this hellebore has huge flowers, deep red stems and attractive marbled foliage. I was so pleased to find her, not only so close to home but also at what I thought the most reasonable price of  £11.99. Like all feted newcomers the initial higher prices such gems command does come down after a while.


True to form I was not sure about the first plant I picked up so rummaged amongst the few other specimens for comparison purpose, whilst himself patiently stood on hand to offer his considered opinion. Back and forth I went until having satisfied myself after much dithering that I had picked the best specimen we made our way to the check out. Visions of a planting scheme to highlight my new purchase were floating around my head as we made our way home, which concluded in a petticoat of snowdrops and cyclamens. Back to base garden centre purchases (yes there were others) were removed from the car boot and lunch preparations took over.

It was only later in the afternoon when mindful that a hard frost was predicted that I realised the error of my ways. As I was about to place 'Anna's Red' under the shelter of the cold frame a close inspection of the label revealed that I had come home with the wrong plant! What I had was Anna's sister, helleborus 'Penny's Pink'. I went back inside to break the news to himself whose attention was focused on the television and a football match. His initial response was one of disbelief as to how this could have happened but an offer of a return trip to the garden centre the next day was eventually forthcoming. At times such as these being a non driver certainly has its disadvantages but I tried not to sulk or to think too much about the fact that there had not been a vast number of 'Anna's Red' for sale.


However my face must have registered as crestfallen because ten minutes or so a return journey to the garden centre became a now rather than tomorrow offer. Off we went again clutching a box containing 'Penny's Pink' (she's lovely but I already have her) and a receipt. The garden centre was much busier at this stage so it took some minutes to explain what had happened. On getting an affirmative that we could exchange plants himself volunteered to get a replacement from the back of beyond and legged it before I could protest. At this point I'm sure he was worrying whether we would get back home for the next football match. What can I say but the plant he bought back with him was not the best of the bunch but what could I say in this situation other than profess my heartfelt gratitude. I'm sure that it will flourish in the future though which is the main consideration.

I'm still pondering where to plant her. She might even be planted in a container as Michelle over at Veg Plotting is growing her 'Anna's Red'. Wherever she ends up though I'm sure I will remember both the excitement and trauma of her purchase. Have you ever come home with the wrong plant?

N.B. The moral of this tale must be always to check the label before you get to the till.

P.S. I've only just realised after taking a photo what a big label it was - I really did not have any excuse, did I?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Muse For February


"What excitement we feel on looking out on to the garden in snow. It is one of the only sensations of our childhood that is not blunted by maturity. Still we want to leave our mark on any smooth expanse of snow, to ruffle it, to jump about on it. However sedate we may grow, we never emerge from the childish longing to write our names on the whitened lawn with a stick, as though it were sand by the seashore. It is a pity that we have so little snow".

~ an extract from "Four Hedges - A Gardener's Chronicle' by Clare Leighton, 1898 -1989.