Spring Update 2016

Suddenly everything has sprung into life again after the winter. There have been some successes and a fair few casualties, probably as a result of the long periods of cold and soggy conditions rather than sharp frosts. Slowly it’s becoming clear what has survived the winter and what hasn’t. There have been some highlights through the late winter and early spring in the form of the hellebores, the early flowering Japanese Quince and a delightful surprise in mid-December in the form of a valiant Clematis flower.

The new bulb border has been very successful with early irises, crocus, daffodils and grape hyacinths providing interest during the dull days of February and March. These were followed by the spectacular snakes head fritillaries – with plenty more still to look forward to with two types of alliums.

Casualities

As the garden becomes a little bit more established, I have had to admit defeat in one or two areas and also made some quite tough choices on plants that, frankly, don’t earn their keep. After all, in such a tiny space everything needs to pull its weight!
Of the three foxgloves I planted last year, two have decided to call it a day. One lavender of the three which graced the steps last year so beautifully has also gone to a better place, and been replaced by a rosemary. Also to the right of the steps two of the alpines I was hoping would spill out to soften the paving stones have been trampled by inconsiderate and very overweight pigeons – something to do with their position just under the bird feeder no doubt.

Two new alpines
Two new alpines

However, hope springs eternal and I have planted two more alpines – a Phlox and a Cerastium – further down.

One of my Sempervivums (house leeks) was also trampled on – unfortunately I was the culprit this time – one of the drawbacks of having to balance on stones to reach other plants!

Also sadly no longer with us: the Agastache that was so magnificent last year and the new Verbena Rigida. Enquiries at the nursery revealed that these two are only “semi-hardy”, so I’m not taking this personally. I have decided to try again, so new plants are on order.

I also took the decision to jettison the Vinca Azurea. It was perfectly healthy but in the end it is just a boring ground cover plant and I didn’t think it merited a seat in the front row. I have split the plant into several pots and hope to pass these on to some friends who really do have ground to cover!

The good news…

New Scabious behind my flourishing aubretia
New Scabious behind my flourishing aubretia

…. is that I now have gaps to fill!

I have added two more Scabious as these were among my favourites last year, great “doers” and beloved by bees and butterflies.

 

 

Slug traps
Slug traps

I’ve also taken the plunge with two Delphiniums (Excalibur Light Blue), despite dire warnings of the slug threat. Forewarned is forearmed, so I purchased some copper bands and a six-pack of best bitter. They love it! I have harvested quite a haul of sozzled slugs, and not a bite out of my precious delphiniums to date.

Phlox divaricata
Phlox Divaricata

 

Two other newcomers: a Salvia Pratensis at the back by the top wall and a delightful pale blue Phlox Divaricata in two of the gaps.

Spring jobs in the garden

Training the jasmine
Training the Jasmine

The roses and climbers have all survived the winter well, and I’ve added some more canes and wires to make sure they cover the fence neatly without going too wild.

Once the first sunlight came down into the garden in early March, it was time to trim back the dead wood which had been protecting the plants against wind rock over winter.

Preparation for wall basket planting
Preparation for wall basket planting

By mid-April, my thoughts turned to my summer wall baskets and summer bedding plants. As I have no over-wintering facility, it’s a fine balance to get this just right. Leave it too late and the available plants are too big to push through little gaps, too early and of course there’s a big risk of frost.

 

The answer – bubble wrap! I planted up my baskets and kept an eye on the forecast. Any low temperature warning sent me scurrying out to cover over my young plants. So far, so good.

Herb fence round two
Vertical herb garden round two

I loved the herb wall last year, and I’m going to make this is a regular feature of the garden. Last year’s plants had all become too woody so I turfed everything out and started again – this time with more of the things I use most, parsley, mint, coriander, oregano and chives.

I’ve also decided to definitely go ahead with my idea of a few choice edible plants, so will be attempting a couple of courgettes and tumbler tomatoes in my two large pots.
These plants are sitting on my window sill being fed and talked to until it’s time to put them outside.

Wildlife

Not a lot to report to report here except for one very exciting event. A wren nesting in the robin box! I hardly dared go out as I watched the pair building, and I managed to get some pictures, not great quality as they flit in and out so quickly.

Wren in residence!
Wren in residence!

Sadly, a neighbouring cat decided to take up a surveillance position on the trellis above so after a few days, they took fright and abandoned ship.

Other than that, there’s been a lot of bee activity already since early in the year, and baby blue tits have been enjoying the sunflower kernels.

Vacated cubicles
Vacated cubicles

It’s also been interesting to keep an eye on the bee hotel – most guests have now checked out so it’s nearly time for a spring clean.

All in all, not a bad start to the gardening year…

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