Wild about Spring

Wild about Spring

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I dream’d that as I wander’d by the way

Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring

And gentle odours led my steps astray

      Shelley

And so the suddenly green shoots were pushing up so fast you could almost hear their lush unfurling and the pots exploded in a lush blaze of colour Snowdrops, narcissus and crocus popping up in pots and in the beds. Far more than I thought I’d put in! Spring was here.

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When I walk to work from the station, I choose the peaceful path up the side of the campus, alongside established trees. All Winter the ground has been a crackling brown carpet of leaves under bare branches. As the days warmed up little leaves appeared taking advantage of the bare canopy. I’m not great on identifying wild flowers, but I’m trying to learn! Am very smitten with a book I found in a bargain bookshop in Lewes, Wild Flowers, by Sarah Raven!

The first leaves to appear were like miniature cyclamen. And pretty soon their flowers appeared, another Springtime yellow, a mass of lesser celandine. It was a real delight watching the brown dead carpet become a mass of colour as the weeks passed by.

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I was rather less delighted when I realised that my new beds were also becoming a sea of celandines too. A “freebie” that came with my free top soil! After researching them I realised that these were pretty difficult to eradicate; digging them out was likely to leave tubers that resprouted! After removing them only where they appeared to be most encroaching on precious plants, I took a philosophical view to love and leave them for now.

There is a flower, the Lesser Celandine

That shrinks like many more from cold and rain

And the first moment that the sun may shine

Bright as the sun himself, tis out again!

W Wordsworth

On a March walk at Cuckmere I was delighted to spot these little violets which I’m almost certain are sweet violet rather than the more common later dog violets. A shy and sweet delight.

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At the campus perimeter the celandines were soon finished. The next leaves to shoot up were more delicate fronds, I was guessing cranesbill but suddenly they grew, at least a foot a week! Triumphant Cow Parsley, some of it already chest high.

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Nettles and dandelions are next and down the slope a few bluebells already opening those fragrant blue petals.

However much I  carefully nurture my garden , it reminds me Mother Nature is pretty good at blossoming forth without any help!

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Enjoy it while it lasts

Winter gloom and the darkling thrush

 

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So where has the time gone? One minute the Winter is dragging on and the next we are galloping towards Summer. So what has happened in my coastal garden so far this year?

Well this Winter wasn’t so bad. Not too much wind and rain, no real storms taking all the fences away (though there is still time!)  A couple of frosty spells, but nothing too severe. The Winter pansies I grew from seed last year hunkered down stubbornly refusing to bloom until Spring arrived. The rosemary bush seems to have doubled in size and most shrubs seem to have survived well except possibly the ceanothus I was given in October. It really needed more shelter from the wind than I could give it.

The potatoes I grew in a pot for Christmas dinner got forgotten in December. When I did find time to check them, I found a little bucketful of perfect tiny new potatoes. They were soon cooked and covered in home made aioli. Mm garlic!

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The wagtails and wood pigeons made themselves at home. The starlings grew their coats of many colours, and came crashing into the garden at regular intervals for food and a bath (even on the coldest days where I had to break the ice with a hammer and boiling water)

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Since December I’ve been working at home two days a week, and it’s been lovely getting a view out onto my garden, especially in the depths of Winter when otherwise I wouldn’t see it from one weekend to the next. I even got a glimpse of the black redstart venturing in, and posing cockily on the bird feeder station, and the fence.

A number of the plants in pots were dying/suffering, and after emptying a couple I found that most were infested with vine weevil. Quite a few of the little blighters were moved  to the bird table (a tasty snack much appreciated by the starlings) and I’ve had to empty the worst pots, and have drenched the rest with a nematode, and top dressed with gravel. From now on, no plant comes in the garden without a root inspection! It does explain why some pots like the trellis planter did badly last year regardless of which plants were in it, and where I put it. You live and learn. I was most worried about the crab apple tree in a pot, but it seems to have made it.

Inside my heated propagator and sunny windowsills were filled with little trays of seeds and I’m dreaming of Summer.

The song thrush had been and gone, clearing the bushes of berries through the dusky afternoons, and moving on again.  

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The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate

When Frost was spectre-grey,

And Winter’s dregs made desolate

The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

Had sought their household fires.

               

At once a voice arose among

The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

Of joy illimited;  

By Thomas Hardy

 Just when it seems that Winter will never end, come the first buds appear. Behold the joy of Spring.

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XYZ and so to bed (flower beds of course)

 

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Well I’ve rather enjoyed this A to Z approach to blogging. A little more though provoking than a more linear blog and give me a focus. It must be said however that XYZ are quite a challenge! But I’ve started so I’ll finish!

X well X marks the spot, the emptyish spot in the flowerbeds that I’m planning to enjoy filling this year!

Y is for yellow. One of my favourite colours, and one that will no doubt reappear in my garden any day now.

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First up crocus and daffodils please! Who could resist a Summer sunflower either! Then the rudbekias in late Summer, and hopefully smiling all the way through the Autumn again!

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These were not in my garden, but at Borde Hill gardens, gorgeous!

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And sometimes some just appear one day when you are riding your bicycle and don’t have a proper camera. These horseshoe vetch were a carpet as far as the eye could see! Beautiful.

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Z well I don’t have any plants yet beginning with Z, but feel my garden is crying out for some Zinnias. So they are on the list for Spring! I like having a Z to aim for!

Enough for now Zzzzzzz

W for Waves, winds and Winter wrens

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W is for Wind, Waves and Winter. Wind is the main challenge for my garden along with salty air and occasional sea water run off! Even the most hardy plants can shrivel and hunker down under such conditions (For example I finally gave up on a spiky Pyracanthus!). The only consolation is that it is mostly in the Winter that the worst of the winds reign, and you can sometimes get away with the annuals and perennials during the Summer. Last year I was lucky as there were few real Autumn storms and some of the flowers just kept going! However a sudden storm or windy week in the Summer can bring havoc. The worst casualties are G’s big pots of bamboo, which we keep round the hot tub. They just turn into a browned off stalks by December. Luckily once Summer comes they do grow new shoots again, and I just cut off all the dead ones. I’m not sure what is the best plan, perhaps to wrap fleece round them come the Autumn.

Making the best of it, some of the grasses look wonderful with the wind rushing through them, reflecting the wild beauty of the grassland in the nature reserve.

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Plenty of Wildlife beginning with W too. I did my RSPB Garden birdwatch recently and was glad to be able to include a Wren, which was happily hopping about, probably searching for spiders in the hedge, and a beautiful pied Wagtail which has become a regular visitor.

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What they lack in size, wrens make up for with their loud song! Someone certainly thought it was Spring this morning at dawn, there was some fantastic singing going on in the dawn chorus!

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Wrens apparently often huddle together in nest boxes – with a record 61 once found in a single nest box! I’ve only ever seen one a time, but pretty regularly. Apparently the males make several potential nests and the female gets to choose which one she wants. Will have to keep an eye out for signs of nest making. I have some brass wren ornaments on the top of the trellis panel, which are tiny, but still bigger than the real ones!

Also have had cute little Wood mice in the compost bin (looking rather sleepy and startled when I open the lid).

Last but not least, Weeds. Well not too many hopefully in my garden, though it is rather difficult sometimes to tell if anything sprouting in my new bed is a) seeds I enthusiastically planted in Autumn, b) weeds inherited with my Eastbourne clay top soil c) seeds scattered by the frenzy of birds at the bird table and under it. I guess that’s a good excuse to just wait and see what turns up!

Anyway let’s hope we will be waving goodbye to Winter very soon!

Autumn ends, winter comes,
And everybody’s gone.
Days grow short, and pull apart,
And now the nights are long.
We winter wrens have made amends,
With the silence and the cold.
So, just leave us to our own device.
We winter wrens are fine.

So, just leave us to our own device
We winter wrens are fine
‘Cause there’s no mistake of the call we make
When there’s no one else around

‘Cause there’s no mistake of the call we make
When there’s no one else around

Lyrics, Winter Wrens by Dolorean

 

V for Vigour, Verbena and Vinca minor

One of my favourite plants is Verbena Bonariensis. I first fell for it, when I saw in G’s parents’ front garden which was a tidy shingle sunny bed, with these towering purple blooms right at the front, fabulous. They self seed everywhere so Pat found a few escapees and gave them to me but they failed to thrive (some being accidentally beheaded by G when he decided to strim the grass (and anything near it.. doh)

I then grew some from seed, and carefully nurtured them, potting them on as they grew. When I planted out and left them around 3-4 inches high, by the next day, there they were gone. Slugs and snails my main suspects! Anyway I persevered and last year managed to get a plant to survive and I see it is already sending up new shoots, so I’m happy.  Maybe the self seeded ones are a bit less tasty, and more defensive. They are never going to have enough space or sun to do as well as Pat’s garden (which won a prize in an Eastbourne in bloom competition), but there will be enough to keep a few bees happy.

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They are rather on the tall and leggy side, and when I spotted  a dwarf one for sale in the garden centre, I couldn’t resist. I kept it in a nice white pot, and it kept itself tidy (if rather spiky) and bloomed for ages. Nice to look at, but I don’t think I saw a single bee or butterfly on it. Which is rather a shame. It’s still alive I think, though probably could have done with a mulch before this cold spell started, but we will see if it makes it.

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Another V is Vinca minor. The periwinkle is a lovely ground cover plant, and I have a couple on the shady side, that are reliable without overtaking the garden.

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V is also for Variegation. I don’t think you can get enough variegation in your leaves! They can really add texture and depth to a patch of green or a dark corner!

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And ending with a Villain, the dreaded Vine weevil. You buy a plant, and care for it and then weep as it wilts and dies. Often the cause is an infestation of vine weevils in the pot. I lost a few purchases this year, and must remember to try and check the roots for these little villains, before I settle the plants in! Apparently this is a good time to check the roots of any ailing plants in pots, so must try that when they thaw out!

 

U for Underplanting and umbellifers

 

Um, well can U think of any plants beginning with U? I can’t find any in my garden!

This year however I will need to think about my Underplanting, in the new raised bed by the hedge and under the new crab apple tree. Suggestions for a rather shady but fertile spot welcome, especially something tall that can hide the rather unsightly netting covering the hedge.

Some more Umbellifers perhaps, although these prefer the sun! Surely the most lovely of these plants (rather popular with Chelsea garden designers), is the ubiquitous cow parsley. Probably not a good one for my little patch, but up on the downs, here between Lullington Heath and the Cuckmere valley, it is just glorious, clouds of soaring white flowers all along the South Downs way.

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Other umbellifers include the wonderful fennel, sweet cicily and angelica

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Up the Umbellifers!

Tumbling toms and thunbergia

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T is for tomatoes. I may not have a greenhouse or a lot of space, but I do still like to squeeze in some Tomato plants. Tumbling Tom is a favourite so I grew that one and a new one maskotka. Hard to choose between them really, both did really well in some bargain big £1 tubs from Ikea, in a corner that doesn’t get a huge amount of sun, but is more sheltered from the wind than most of the sunny side. Plenty of cherry tomatoes, and enough  green ones left for four jars of chutney.

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Walk a few yards up the hill behind our houses and you’ll soon spot some Thrift (often known as sea pinks) growing on the slopes and edge of the cliffs. It feels most at home there and in my garden where it is most welcome

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In the Spring of course a succession of bulbs start to cheer up the pots. The tulip bulbs probably need replacing, they weren’t as great this year, they really don’t keep all that well.

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We usually head out to some National Trust or other gardens in the Spring to get the best displays!

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A new plant for me this year is this fantastic Thunbergia (superstar orange). It grows from seed to a substantial climber in one season. What gorgeous orange flowers they are. It did quite well in my garden, but not as well as the one I gave my mum. She’s not really a gardener (My Dad always used to do the garden) but following directions, she kept it in her conservatory, then planted it in her front garden against a warm wall, and it positively blossomed, far longer than mine did! Quite stunning

 

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Another stunning T is a visitor to the garden in January, a Thrush. I only ever see them in January for a short period, while they (or possibly just the one!) clear the berries from the shrubs at the bottom of the alley way. A lovely way to cheer up my cold and frosty January!