Spring on Fast Forward24th April 2018 • In The Garden • Kolodo
The weather of these islands will never cease to amaze me – two weeks ago it was miserable and gardening involved several layers of clothing – recently I’ve been in shorts, wearing a sunhat and slathered in sun cream and now we appear to have reverted to ‘normal’ spring weather with cooler nights and moderately warm days. The minute the heat hit, every plant went into overdrive – the amelanchier flowered gloriously for three days and is now dropping its petals, the rosemary foliage is invisible beneath a mass of flowers, the smyrnium has rocketed upwards, the erythroniums are in full bloom and the tulips at their beautiful best.
I’m particularly pleased with the large planter that I filled with the tulips that I saved from last year’s pots – after I had dried them off. I replanted those that were the plumpest last November and now I have a wonderfully random selection that I actually think look much lovelier than my more considered plantings. In future I think I will mix some of the previous year’s bulbs in with the new ones I plant in pots for a similar effect. I’ve also started naturalising last year’s Ballerina bulbs in the woodland area of the garden where they look beautiful flowering amongst honesty and bluebells.
There’s even signs of ‘breaking’ in some of the flowers. This is where a virus in the soil causes flaming or feathering on the petals, recalling Tulipomania of the 17th century when great fortunes were made and lost from supplying such broken flowers. Because this variation could only be propagated from offshoot bulbs, rather than seed, they were very rare and mysterious because they didn’t know what caused it – and thus much prized.
The exception to my mixed plantings are Exotic Emperor tulips outside the front door that are all the better for being planted en masse – this is one planting that I won’t be changing. They are amongst the earliest and showiest of the tulips and have the great virtue of dying quite attractively as the later-flowering shocking pink Barcelona push up amongst them to provide a continuing display.
Although the chilly of March and the first part of April seemed never-ending, it does mean that I have had better luck with lettuces than usual. Our light sandy soil dries out so quickly and the vegetable plot is a real suntrap so they can struggle – but not this year. The cold has also kept the slugs at bay, so salad is definitely on the menu. Despite the cold, the broad beans germinated well and are now growing strongly and the first row of ‘gutter-germinated’ peas have been transplanted and are now starting to put on growth amongst the peasticks.
One of the advantages of the hot spell was that it allowed me to move a lot of the young plants out of the greenhouse and coldframe, without the usual ‘hardening off’ process of moving them outdoors during the day and back undercover overnight. They should be robust enough now to deal with the drop in temperature. The lemon trees have also been moved outdoors, having come through the winter well – they are loving being back in the sunshine and I’m looking forward to them blossoming quite soon.
One way or another, despite the vicissitudes of our climate, the garden is looking great and the cooler weather does mean that the tulips will keep flowering for longer which is blooming marvellous as far as I’m concerned.