Warm sunshine, barely a breeze and the flowers are unfurling, birds singing and bees of every shape and size are buzzing round the garden accompanied by squadrons of hoverflies. Stop Press! I’ve just seen a tortoiseshell butterfly! It’s on days like this that the slog through winter dissolves and I find myself itching to get out there and do things – lots of things. But before the hard work begins, it’s time to celebrate the early arrivals in the garden whether floral or flying.
Daphne Jacqueline Postil is as alluring to the bees as it is to us
Crocuses are in beautiful and colourful bloom
Witchhazels scent the air
Euphorbias contribute acid green bracts
snowdrops are in full bloom
As we pootled around the Botanic Garden in Nigel Taylor’s buggy admiring our surroundings we spotted a young monitor lizard on the trunk of a palm tree. The reason that it was up there turns out to be that if they stay on the ground their parents will eat them!
While many of the plants in the garden are looking a bit dusty and past their best and are needing a good tidy, or at least a deadheading, the Begonia grandis ssp. evansiana is flourishing and flowering prolifically in dry semi-shade. It is happy enough to be self-seeding, so I’m either leaving the young plants to establish where they are, or moving them to a vacant spot. I now have three plants species that thrive in my garden’s dry shade and require very little care. Earlier in the year it is Geranium palmatum and now it is Begonia Grandis and Japanese anemones. It makes me wonder why I put so much effort into growing other things. Nevertheless I’ve started sowing hardy annuals for next year and generally fussing about with the various prima donnas that are sure feature in the garden for years to come. I think it will be a while before I have a three plant garden.
There can’t be a more aptly named flower than Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ – the morning glory. I’ve written about how much I love it previously on the blog – I find the pure blue of the fragile flowers heart-stoppingly beautiful. Most years the plants seem to have a death wish, but this year, for once, they are thriving. Admittedly it’s the smallest plant that is currently flowering it socks off, while the 10ft tall plant has just had the occasional flower so far, but there are hundreds of buds, so I am willing it to come into full flower before the autumnal winds arrive and tear the leaves to shreds. I think there are a couple of reasons why I’ve had more success than usual (other than the weather) – firstly I sowed 3 seeds per small coir pot and once they were growing strongly, potted them on (including pot) into a 20cm coir pot. Secondly, I kept them in the greenhouse until mid July before moving them outside, where I potted them on (again with coir pot) into a slightly larger terracotta pot. This meant that they had no root disturbance and they have certainly shown their appreciation of this treatment. I’m generally far less indulgent of my plants, but in this case the flowers are my reward.
I wish I could say that our apricot tree provides us with a magnificent crop, but the truth of the matter is that despite the wonderful weather, the couple of pounds of fruit we picked do not really justify the space the tree takes up. By the time that the blue tits have pecked off half the flowers (apparently they find apricot flowers particularly delicious) and the blackbirds have stabbed at the fruit long before it is fully ripe, I’m amazed that we got even that many. Still there were a few fine specimens that we ate fresh and we salvaged some of the damaged fruit and stewed them up. They all tasted wonderful – now I have to decide the tree’s fate – a few delicious fruit in a good year – or more growing space. The head knows what to do, but the heart may be less rational.