March was a strange month. Colder than either January or February, plants apparently in stasis, and for me, not much gardening. Some stripping of wallpaper, some work, some choosing of new kitchen bits and pieces, and a very welcome visit from mil and fil, but very little gardening. I entered April feeling rather fed up, tired of being buffeted by the cold East wind, just plain tired, and thinking that I’d not really achieved anything very much when it came to the garden. Blogging went out the window. But suddenly the East wind is just a bitter memory, the soil is warming up, the weeds are growing, and so too are the mange-tout and peas I sowed outside in a fit of optimism in mid March. I feel a little like this magnolia bud:
A little battered, but starting to feel it is worth venturing forth again. And better able to appreciate that things aren’t nearly as bleak as I had thought. For one thing, the radishes have germinated, only two weeks after sowing, and I need to thin them a little. Even better, the salad onions just behind them are germinating too.
My little aluminium greenhouse, which sits just by the conservatory door, has raised beds made from offcuts from the Great Fencing Project, and the salad leaves I sowed in modules and planted out in the hope of getting something to eat sooner rather than later are now producing sandwich fillings.
The beds will eventually house tomatoes and basil, and the shelves are full of trays of germinating edibles, like these beetroot ‘Boltardy’ seedlings.
The kitchen garden is even beginning to look a little like somewhere that will produce food to eat, with broad bean plants finally putting on some growth and – now protected from the digging exploits of the marauding blackbirds – more salad onions, salad leaves and even some shallots are trying to make a go of it.
The indoor sowing and growing factory, otherwise known as the conservatory, has been performing really well. I am in love with my Vitopod propagator, which has been full ever since I first turned it on, and although the grow lamp is no longer in use, the shelving is full of robust little plants.
I am particularly chuffed with the lemongrass, as I failed so totally the last time I tried to grow it. I’ll soon have to clear more space by passing on tomato and chilli plants to my neighbor, as the propagator is now full of phase two of the perennials sown for the front garden. I had been getting rather cross at the delay in the arrival of the Chiltern Seeds order, but in the end the timing was perfect, and they were lovely about the snafu at their end that led to the delay. I would have been happy with the way the dealt with it even if they hadn’t sweetened the pot with a gift voucher to say “sorry”. That’s what I call customer service!
The first batch of perennials I sowed are now out in the wooden greenhouse I inherited when we moved here, which has power and so will also house my propagator once the weather warms up. It is really satisfying to see little plants of rudbekia, knapweed, echinacea, gaura and the like all starting to grow away, ready to be planted out in the front garden later in the year. There are also some cosmos to help pad things out while the perennials fill out, but nowhere near enough, I fear, I think I will be direct sowing too once the soil is consistently warmer.
I do love growing plants from seed, but I haven’t been able to resist buying some plants in to make an earlier impact, there is so much bare ground. Elizabeth’s post on the annual plug plants she reviewed from Plant Me Now inspired me to check out their website for perennials, and I wound up buying some Achillea ‘Terracotta’ and Alchemilla ‘Irish Silk’. These arrived as what they call Starter Plants, essentially large plug plants with well established root systems that, because they have been overwintered, should flower in their first year.
At the other end of the scale I also bought a dozen Verbena bonariensis plugs from Thompson and Morgan to give me a head start, as my own sowings have been very slow off the mark despite the propagator. These were tiny…
…but although I only ordered 12, a lot of the cells had more than one seedling in them so I ended up with double that. Together with some chunks of the ever-useful and very robust geranium macrorrhizum album, a very vigorous shade-tolerant white geranium, kindly brought by fil from my old garden, they will fill a goodly amount of space. Which is just as well because now that I can see more of the front garden, there is a lot of space to fill.
The fence now steps down as it runs away from the house to allow more of the view to be enjoyed from indoors. Now that the rickety trellis has gone and the shrubs have been pruned back or removed, the whole feeling of the garden has changed yet again. I have surprised myself in that I really like the sense of it opening up as it runs down towards the sea, and am not feeling the lack of privacy from the lower fence height at all. I have rather enjoyed chatting to neighbors and passers by as I work out there, and the whole garden feels as if it is embracing the surroundings rather than trying to remain apart. This, in turn, has meant changing some of my plans for planting, as there is not a lot of point lowering the fence if I then put something really tall and dense in front of it! But the biggest transformation is down at the very front, past the pile of shredding that sits on top of the giant mutant viburnum that wants to take over the village.
A rather lopsided and hacked about weeping willow stood in the middle of a tangle of Brachyglottis, which desperately needed some pruning. Only it turned out that the plants were so over grown that they tended to have 2m long branches sporting about 20cm of growth at the ends. Some of the half dozen plants that must originally have been intended as a small hedge had rotted away completely, but others were still sprouting new growth from the base, so I cut everything hard back on the basis that it couldn’t be left as it was, tumbling over the walls and onto the paths on either side of our garden, and some might survive and grow back. The front third of the garden now looks like a disaster zone.
But if you look beyond the mountains of material to be cleared and shredded, there is suddenly a whole new area to play with.
There is so much to be done in the front garden that I sometimes get exhausted just thinking about it, but the plan to intersperse the fencing, clearing and re-landscaping with the planting up of the first section of the fence border is helping keep me cheerful, and I have collected another planting project in the back garden too.
I call it the daisy corner, because of the butchered remains of the Olearia, or daisy bush, and it was in danger of becoming an unloved dumping ground, but I just can’t afford to let that happen. It is far too prominent, being the area most easily seen from the comfy chair in the kitchen area, and even more obvious when you are sat out on the patio. So rather than eying up old misshapen shrubs that I need to remove from the front garden and thinking “I wonder if I could use that in the daisy corner” I decided to stick to the promise I made myself when we moved here, and not keep anything in the garden that I didn’t like. So hopefully over the next couple of months I will be able to show you a gradual transformation of part of the front garden and the unloved daisy corner into planted – albeit sparsely – and loved spaces.
Whew, that’s more than enough of that, hopefully I will keep up with myself a little better and blog more regularly and more briefly! Now I’d better make a start on catching up with the 150 or so posts I have missed these past few weeks…