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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The first batch of salads are now of pickable size – and some of the leaves actually make it as far as the house -although at the moment most are picked a leaf at a time to relish as I work in the garden. I also have a row of the ‘Wasabi’ rocket from Thompson & Morgan growing between the broad beans and it really does have a powerful wasabi-type kick to it. From now on I will sow my salads in a shady spot outdoors (in pots) because I find germination slows right down if they are in the greenhouse which gets very warm during the day. The same goes for spinach.
About the only good thing about a cold wind from the north is that it extends the flowering period of spring bulbs, but it also tends to be a dry wind, so it is worth giving your bulbs a long drink if you are in the path of the northerlies and haven’t had much rain recently. It may seem daft to be wrapped up in winter woollies while wielding a watering can, but it will make sure that the emerging tulips will continue to grow strongly and flower prolifically.