Friday, 10 May 2013


This exquisite wallflower is in a garden just down the street - aside from raising my spirits every time I pass with its rich colours and sweet scent, it's inspiration for my own garden next year.

This is the best time of year to me. From mid-April to perhaps as late as early July, there's maximum daylight (increasing during most of that period), everything is growing - seeds sown germinate in days, perennials come into leaf, often into flower, and the garden seems to change visibly day by day. There's no hint of the decay to come, it's all positive - although weeds grow faster than the plants I've chosen, and the vegetable garden isn't offering much for the first few weeks.

 In my own garden, a second variety of potted tulip, 'Black parrot', is coming into its prime - totally different to the last one, equally luscious.

 Even the emerging buds are beautiful, the colour beginning at the ruffled edges, the central petals changing from green to almost lemon, before assuming their final burgundy hue.

I've been getting on with a few things. Mostly just tidying, removing dead materials left over from winter (hopefully any invertebrates have come out of hibernation), mulching, reorganising. But also, sowing - cucumbers, for instance - and repotting the flowers and vegetables I'd sown earlier in spring (chiefly tomatoes and cosmos). I've also taken inspiration from my first tulips (see previous post) and planted bulbs for later in the season - dahlias, lilies, and other tender exotics.

My cherries are in full bloom. The fan-trained tree usually flowers first, but both are at the same point this year, perhaps due to the delayed spring. The last sunshine catches the free-standing tree, while the rest of the garden is in shadow (the terrace, behind, needs a lot of work).

I also finally sorted a project I'd had in mind for at least a year - a pond. I have a large plastic 'pot' (it's a bit too big for that word to seem entirely appropriate), originally bought to be sunk into the ground and restrain a tree, but which has sat, full of dug-out garden soil, for a couple of years. At last I emptied it, then filled with water. I discovered a plant I've had on my windowsill for a couple of seasons, Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon', will grow happily in waterlogged conditions, so I've floated it at the edge, secured by a wire (it'll either cover the ugliness with fresh growth, or I'll find a more permanent solution). I ordered three more plants, which arrived and were plunged in today - Butomus umbellatus (flowering rush, with lovely pale pink, allium-like umbels), Caltha palustris (marsh marigold, with lush round leaves, and bright yellow buttercup flowers), and Pontederia cordata (pickerelweed, with pale blue flower spikes).

H. cordata 'Chameleon' is both a culinary herb - prized in Southeast Asian cooking for its fishy aroma - and a very attractive foliage plant. Note the improvised wire support, and the lovely texture of the pond's surface.

 Aquilegia (columbine) season is beginning - this unusual variety has self-sown into a neighbouring garden. Sadly they don't come true from open-pollinated seed, and the ones that return every year in my own garden tend to be plain purple or pink - though still lovely.

 But at last, one local self-sown plant has made it to my garden - Meconopsis cambrica. Unlike its Himalayan relatives, this native poppy has orange, or occasionally yellow, flowers. Delicate, and lovely - I'm glad I didn't weed the driveway recently.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


When I returned from my week and a half away, things had changed. It felt like the time of year at last - everything had grown, the trees and shrubs were bursting into leaf, dandelions were blooming everywhere, insects filled the warm air.

Here is the essence of the season, the highlight of the current garden, and the biggest inspiration at the moment: my first tulips are in bloom. In fact, a single 'Purissima', a bag of which I bought for 30p two and a half years ago, planted in pots, enjoyed, dug up, stored, and replanted in haste last April, has returned - a single perfect cream bloom. But the ten pots I filled back in January have started to flower, so I thought I'd share:

This variety is 'Apricot Beauty', and what a beauty it is. Pale pinkish-peach, lightly streaked darker pink, perfectly formed and with a luminosity that looks good all day long, whatever the light and weather. They won't last long, but they are exquisite right now.