Thursday, 18 April 2013

April Garden Notes

On Saturday afternoon I was sat on a warm, sunny hillside near Wickwar in the south of the county, it was bliss; a rare pleasure not to be taken for granted. In fact, so far this spring we’ve taken nothing for granted, I’ve never known it so cold. Even the Pond Garden’s Magnolia, the star of the show in late March/early April, is tight budded and could be a month behind! The Spa’s Horse Chestnut is normally in leaf by now, it’s always very early; but it is only just breaking bud. It’s a strange dichotomy, it’s most definitely spring; but winter looks on. This weekend I watched Hares boxing in a stubble field near the Thames at Lechlade and all around them flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings pecked and scurried, these Scandinavian Thrushes should have been well on their way back to the breeding grounds of northern Europe.

As far as the garden goes the main problem has been the wind chill; it has seared, scorched and dessicated many things in its path….Hellebore flowers, and the leaves of Pachyphragma, Bergenias, Aquilegia, Thalictrums, Roses showing some signs of being singed. That’s not to say there’s nothing to see….Crocuses have been good especially the white ‘Joan of Arc’ looking great now in drifts through the Wilderness, Daffodils too; although they’ve still got to reach their peak. Plum red Paeoni shoots punctuate the soil’s surface and the sinister dusky clusters of low level Mandrake flowers are emerging in quiet corners. The shrub Oemleria cerasformis, just to the right of the Temple is now in flower, easily missed being quite delicate white blooms in small drooping clusters, a light scent and lovely. On Friday the lawns were cut, then brushed (with a machine to remove any debris) and finally today they received a dressing of fertiliser, one low in Nitrogen (4%) as we are not wishing to produce a silage crop; but achieve steady growth and ‘green up’. The bottom lawn had top dressing applied to remove hoof prints left by several rogue cattle in the early hours one morning; it’s never dull.

Another big job the team has just finished is the removal of timber produced when two large trees (Beech & Sycamore) were felled a year ago. This timber has been cut up, nearly half split and stacking is underway along the south west facing hedge line out in the field. All done between jobs; but great for team building! This wood will then be on the fires in the house next autumn. In November 2010 a large Lime was felled at the top of the drive and last week we planted a Brewer’s Weeping Spruce, Picea brewerana, in it’s place. This rarely seen spruce will, in years to come, be our Christmas tree, it is at least two metres high already and will have lights on it this coming festive season. It is planted just at the top of the drive on the right as you turn to the front of the house.

March is normally such a good month for planting out Lettuces and some of the vegetables; but Mark ad Ed’ have kept their ‘powder dry’ not wishing to expose the young plants to such hazardous conditions. The weather seems to be getting more seasonal now and some of these plants are now going out….plugs of Spinach ‘Bloomsdale’, Beetroot ‘Boltardy’ were put in today, 8th April. Other veg’ to ‘go in’ during the next week or two are Parsley ‘Giant of Napoli’, Rainbow Chard, Summer Cabbage ‘Golden Acre’ as well as various Lettuces…..’Rouge Grenobloise’, ‘Buttercrunch’, ‘Green & Red Salad Bowls’ and ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’. Later on Cabbage Red Drumhead’ and Potatoes ‘Pink Fir Apple’ and ‘Cherie’ will be planted. In the tunnel Mark has already planted the second early potato ‘Belle de Fonteney’ (Head Chef Graham Grafton’s favourite) and the first early ‘Swift’ and ‘Rocket’. Ed’ too has vegetable plants ready to go in the Potager….lettuces as above as well as ‘Valmaine’, Swiss Chard ‘Fordhook Giant’, Beet ‘ Bullsblood, Beetroot ‘Chiogga’, Flat leaf Parsley and Leaf Radish.

Despite the weather there are many plants in flower around the garden.......
Narcissus ‘Jetfire’
Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’
Pseudo Narcissus Obvallaris, the Tenby Daffodil, on the drive under the trees.
Helleborus foetidus..the Stinking Hellebore.
Helleborus hybridus and it’s many colour forms..from white to black.
Helleborus odoratus...chartreuse green and sweetly scented.
Primroses..wild form and various colours.
Vinca hirsuta..dark blue Periwnkle.
Vinca minor Tulip greigii ‘Pinocchio’..scarlet petals edged ivory, patterned leaves.
Pachyphragma macrophyllum..pure white, only flowering in sheltered nooks at the moment, more will follow. Great plant for shade.
Crocus ‘Joan of Arc’..large pure white blooms.
Crocus ‘Ard Schenk’..smaller white fowers. ones that were in bowls last year, they then got planted in the beds, more will go in soon.
Chinodoxa (‘Glory of the Snow’)...small flowering bulbs, blues and paler colours.
Hepaticas....shade loving residents of chalky Transylvanian woodlands, you’d be hard pushed to see as many as this growing in a garden!
Cycamen coum
Scilla bifolia...bright intense blue, tiny Bluebells.

It’s a busy time and with the weather holding things back; when it does get warmer all of spring will unfold in two weeks, rather like the desert when it rains! So troughs and hayracks need to be put up around the pub, everedging needs to go in around some of the beds, parasols primed in hope of better weather and the project of suite 11 to be completed......the Village Festival happens on 18th May!

We have quite a range of plants for sale, all of garden provenance, please pop down to the polytunnel to see what we have. Very reasonably priced and grown in our own compost.....
Variegated Strawberries from the Potager.
Golden Feverfew.
Japanese them now, I guarantee they’ll sell out in a couple of months!
Hebe ‘White Heather’...a Mrs. V favourite.

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