When the Sun Shines……..

When winter seems reluctant to leave, we gardeners love to get outside and get on with things, but even though the temperatures are low, the strength of the sun is increasing daily.  This is something I’m very aware of as I have a tiny area of skin damage on my nose which could turn to to a basal cell carcinoma if I ignored it.  I’ve had it checked and its fine as long as I wear a hat whenever practical and use sunblock on my face.  I now use Boots Factor 50 sunblock every day – even in winter – and wear a hat whenever the sun shines. If you are interested I use the Soltan Dry Touch Face Cream for everyday and their BB Face Suncare Cream if I want a touch of make up. Better safe than sorry.wear suncream

I was prompted to write this post when I received an email about a new campaign called ‘Watch Your Back’ – a new gardener’s health campaign being launched by the Melanoma Fund. Apparently men over 50 are at the highest risk  with melanomas appearing on the back, head and neck where they are not easy to spot and tend to be diagnosed later, making treatment more difficult. Find out more, including The Gardeners Sun Safety Code at www.watchyourback.melanoma-fund.co.uk

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Best Support Act

When it comes to plant supports, Sarah Raven really has it sorted.  I visited Perch Hill last weekend to see the various structures before they all disappear beneath their coverings of plants.  beanpole plant supports peastick plant supportsThe scale of everything is much bigger than anything I can do in my garden, but then she does have the luxury of space and can allow everything to grow to its full size. Sarah uses coppiced hazel and birch for her supports – these are much generally much easier to get hold with the increase in managed woodland.peas planted below supports woven hazelIf you have a bit of space in your garden it’s well worth planting some hazel – it is such a useful material. I was at the Chelsea Physic Garden recently and took a photo of a coppiced hazel  in one of their borders which shows clearly how they have bought it back into coppicing by taking out the large trunks so that it send out straight new growth. straight new growth on hazel

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I do Love a Tulip

I do Love a Tulip

The tulips are just beginning to strut their stuff, although Exotic Emperor – a new variety to me – has now been flowering for weeks and definitely a new favourite. I planted it in a pair of dolly tubs either side of the front door where the flowers just got better and better as they opened and now resemble lovely creamy white double paeonies.  I’ve underplanted them with bright pink Barcelona which will take their place when they finally decide to drop their petals.cream-tulip

Viridiflora tulips are favourites too – both for their markings and because they reliably return each year – I add a few more Spring Green and Flaming Spring Green every year and have plans to add the pink-shaded China Town next year.Viridifloratwo tone tulip

There are lots more to come – thanks to the chilly east wind many remain tightly furled. In the courtyard where I put most of the orange and yellow shades only Brown Sugar has opened, while Ballerina, General de Wet and Apricot Jewel are barely showing any colour – that’s fine as far I’m concerned, I like an extended flowering season – in hot springs it is often over far too quickly.brown-sugar

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Petal Perfection

Petal Perfection

One of the things that I love about this time of year is that there is still time to pause and admire each new arrival – it won’t be long before there’s so much happening that individual flowers will go unnoticed. The variety of shape and colour is extraordinary when you take a close look. The tubular petals of the bright pink bellis daisies have white interiors, while the tissue paper petals of the ranunculus look far too delicate to withstand icy blasts but seem impervious to the variability of the spring weather.pink bellis daisiesranunculus

In the woodland garden the Erythronium put in a brief but lovely appearance with their recurved yellow petals – they always remind me of the hats worn by the imps in Rupert Bear Annuals of my childhood.ErythroniumIMG_4377

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