Flowers, Frogs, Newts and Follies

20130425_155427 20130425_155438 20130425_155450 20130425_155459 20130425_155514It is now April and June will be here soon enough and the garden is still not growing!

Well not 100% true – quite a few  things have started but we are still looking eagerly for more daffs to open up when they should be finished by now. All the plants are late but the recent warmth has encouraged them to poke their heads up.

But optimism is the way gardeners work as evidenced by the crowds yesterday in the Garden Centre where we went. We thought ‘go on Monday, it will be quieter’; well no such thing – the queue in the café was looping round twice. Mostly it was us oldies there, but also some younger people who had brought the children as they had several children’s activities, including growing Mr Potato Head, and decorating cupcakes. Good thinking! But then every year Ayletts in St Alban’s is nominated as best independent  garden centre in England. And wins with great aplomb.

It has a wonderful selection of items and huge range of goods including we were amused to see this time, ‘Buy your own Folly’. This was a set of half-ruined walls with windows in a mock medieval style bricks and stone that you could buy all or sections of to place in your garden, rather in the style of the Romantics in 18th century landscaping. Never seen this before. And daren’t ask the price….

In the event, we went to buy stones for our front garden. We have dug up a lot of the plants there so we can make a stone bed in a more Chinese/Japanese style leading down to the pond. They had a great selection of stones and cobbles including some large ones which they are delivering for free next week as our order is of enough value – but much cheaper than we thought it would be! We have ordered a mix of sizes of Borderstone mixed – which come in pale shades of grey through to very pale pinky grey; and a few heather cobles and small stones to provide some contrast. This will work very well with our red/maroon etc cornus which have not cut fully back this year, just trimmed out the taller stems – around 1/3 per plant. This is so that they will provide a backdrop to the stones.

We also came home with some bulbs for summer/autumn flowering (Bessera Elegance) but which, as they can’t be planted outside until it is 15 degrees or more, will join the other bulbs (Polianthes tuberosas), corms (Begonias)  and plants on our bedroom windowsills. Had to buy more windowsill trays for this.

Talking to our Yellow Book local co-ordinator who came round on Sunday to drop off our leaflets etc, we were talking about the cornus and realised that if we moved one or two of the smaller plants that have grown themselves  – cornus are quite good at propagating themselves – to fill in the gaps, the final hedge could then be woven together. This would look very good with the different coloured stems. Also, it would provide an excellent stand for a herbaceous clematis – of which I hope to have more if the seeds I planted grow into ‘real’ worthwhile plants – at the moment they are beginning to sprout which is wonderful but I’ve lost seedlings before so…! Or I could take a cutting or stem section off the really big one I bought recently from our neighbour.
Glad though we have some weeks until we open – early June for the local community and late June for the Yellow Book. We may have some peonies for early June as the tree peonies are coming through strongly now but as for the herbaceous ones they will be later and whether or not we will get the roses and pink ceanothus is anyone’s guess. Not even late June perhaps although I have now taken off all the covers for them and they do have a few leaves coming through.

I was pleased to see that one of our very large (not hardy) fuchsias has made it through the winter under fleece, but is very dry, the other doesn’t look healthy and I was very upset to find that the vine weevils have had my really lovely heuchera ‘Tiramisu’. Not a root left and the pot was crawling with little white buggies. So into the recycling for the Council it went – soil and all.

It is finally rained last week – which the soil was grateful for – I’ve been round and watered pots several times this past week it has been so dry and with that cold previous easterly wind and plenty of sunshine and being warm now, things have dried out significantly.

I have started planting the green wall with sedum and a white campanula with roots taken from our garden. In the past it has cost a fortune to fill it with annuals as it has 90 odd pockets. Just do the sums!! So we are hoping that as these are plants that colonise dry areas, they may actually settle down and not need renewing. In any event, the only cost has been the soil, the water retention gel, the grit and the fertiliser….! So enough but as much….

I have planted some veggie seeds. Courgette, climbing beans, spring onions, and pak choi. A limited amount and potatoes chitting already so enough but not too much to cope with.

We were pleased to see also that the frogs have come calling and tadpoles have hatched in a week. as the pond is very clear at the moment we can see them – and also several newts! More than we realised. We will just have to hope that we keep a balance between the newts eating the tadpoles and the number that grow into frogs. Nothing we can do. Nature balances ponds in her own way. Oh the bees are out and buzzing – all different sizes and types and we have a lot of early blossom for them what with the plum trees and the Symphitum – Ibericum; tuberosum; and ibiriceum; so many lovely colours and then there are the Pulmonaria – ‘raspberry splash’; ‘beth chatto’; ‘frehling shimmmel’; shades of blue and pink scattered across the flower meadow round the pond – our ‘wild’ area. there is one particular bee that has a special long tongue just for pulmonaria and we noticed that some bees can bite the back of some flowers to get into the nectar – tiny holes but there when you look.

Anyway, tea and apple and pineapple pudding time now and then planting!

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