the end of february

March roared in like a lion last night, but before we move into the delights of daffodils and new growth, I thought I would show the results of a month of labour, and for my own reference, a few garden views to remind me what I both like and dislike about the garden in February.

veg-bed-finished

We have almost finished the new vegetable beds and compost bins. Two of the beds still need to be topped off with more soil and compost but five are done. The slope is south facing and the site well drained. Watering will be an issue but we are hoping to rig up some form of rainwater collection when we lid the compost bins. The beech hedge, when it grows,  will provide shelter from westerly winds and the box planted around the other three sides will offer a little protection as well as being a decorative feature. There may be a lovely wooden cold frame in the offing too, adjacent to the compost bins and under the shelter of the existing beech boundary. We topped the paths with coarse woodchips, deep  enough to insulate the bottom of each raised bed frame and to provide an all-weather surface to work from. Its been very rewarding to do this ourselves, and a great way to burn excess calories from Christmas!

Away from the new garden, Spring flowering has begun.This clump of daffodils is always the first to flower and the bed by the house, nominally a herb bed, has the choicest hellebores too. The daffodils have been open for a couple of weeks now but i have no idea what variety they are-just a standard yellow.

daff-border

Standing further back you can see the jewel box border, a phrase I  borrowed from David Culp who uses it to describe a bed in  his beautiful Pennsylvania garden at Brandywine Cottage. It is narrow, at the foot of the gable wall to the barn, hot, dry  and west-facing. I did a lot of clearing last autumn and only left the more choice plants. This is where I am expanding the collection of little things-irises of various kinds and where I am planning to grow more Agapanthus for later colour. This is one of my favourite February corners.

jewel-box

if I back round the corner and crouch down there is a pretty combination of double snowdrops, black flowered self seeded hellebore and purple iris. I inherited the hellebore but like to think I  have enhanced it with the other plants, although on a grey day the hellebore is not very apparent.

end-of-month-view-2

Crossing the lawn to the west side of the garden there are two long beds, one with the two old apple trees and the other with two yews. We have done quite a lot of clearing in the apple beds, as well as pruning the trees and clipping the Prunus lusitanicus and Eleagnus bushes and cutting down the large Miscanthus. This spring the snowdrops have flowered well and I have planted Epimediums  and Japanese painted ferns to carry on the prettier elements. There is quite a lot of Alchemilla mollis in here that might need editing this year, as well as yet more Crocosmia. Have I ever edited the Crocosmia in the garden and still it comes…

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Between the two long beds and the boundary beech hedge is the daffodil walk. it is pretty worn from our constant matching up and down to the new meadow this winter, with wheelbarrows and whatnot, but it will doubtless recover when the spring comes. We planted a Liquidambar near the boundary but there is more editing to do here. A Sorbus is suffering here and some of the shrubs still need “reviewing”.

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The daffodils are well-grown already-another couple of weeks and there will be flowers. The last picture shows the top of the walk, behind a future project-the yew tree border or Black Hole border, as I have been known to call it.

At the southern edge of the original garden, looking north towards the house is the pond, all the irises cut down. It is  dull at this time of year although the marsh marigolds are already sprouting. We haven’t cleaned it out this year…we will be sorry later on. The dying copper beech is smack in the middle of the lawn. it has been “unwell” for years, apparently and eventually it will be removed. For some reason the otherwise saw-happy gardener is reluctant to do the decent thing on this tree, saving his attentions for otherwise healthy specimens he doesn’t like….

I planted a Cercidyphyllum japonica nearby-you might just spot the white name tag in the picture, bottom left,  and I am hoping it will thrive, as the Magnolia stellata nearby  does. I have a lovely Ciornus florida to plant too, when I have a few minutes.

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The South border is beginning to bloom- happy, self seeding primulas and the first pulmonarias are in flower . I am lifting and splitting some of the larger perennials in this border in between building tasks. The delphiniums are still waiting for that treatment and I’m thankful that February here has been cold enough to restrict early growth. The wire mesh on the border is an attempt to protect cyclamen bulbs from the rabbits/voles/moles/mice/pheasants that are determined to dig up and/or eat them. The Escapologist Chicken has been known to venture here too. I love this border when it is in full growth or when, like now, the dead vegetation has  been cut down and the new growth is beginning.

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The current focus is on beginning to integrate the garden with the new meadow, a subject for a future post, as well as raising quantities of plants in my wonderful Vitopod propagator, a Christmas present from the other half. It’s all going pretty well so far, and the house is filling up with seedlings hardening off whilst it is too cold to put them into my unheated greenhouse. I’ve got my eye on a rather lovely wooden  Swallow greenhouse that I have fallen in love with….there would be room in there and perhaps power too. I live in hope.

Happy March everyone. Everything in the garden is going to step up a notch this month, so I hope you are all raring to go.

february is for hellebores…

february is for hellebores

february is for hellebores

 

 

 

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I love February. The days are lengthening, the birds have started their Spring songs and the quiet earth is beginning to erupt into flower, at least in this climate.

When we moved here we inherited a small but lovely collection of hellebores, 6 snowdrops, and some pretty dwarf irises. It is our third spring and the hellebore collection is expanding. Self sown seedlings are just coming into bud and I am looking forward to seeing the flowers. I have added white Helleborus niger and H. nigercors to the shady apple tree border I am developing this winter, and two new double Credale hybrids from a nursery in Leominster where new varieties are being bred. They are gorgeous plants and I could find space for lots more.

The snowdrops are increasing too. The original half-dozen under the oak tree has increased to a dozen flowers this year. The creatures have left the flowers alone so far and that always helps. I planted a hundred in the green in our first spring and they are beginning to make a small show on a  bank near the front gates. It will be a while yet before they stop the traffic. I’ve added pots bought  from the market-always Galanthus nivalis but sometimes the double form and begged them from neighbours with fabulous displays and gradually the garden is becoming a snowdrop garden. I even bought two pots of Galanthus elwessii last week, but mostly I am content with the simple ones that mirror the wonderful displays in the lanes and woods of Herefordshire.

The little irises are a welcome splash of bright colour. My inherited colony of Katherine Hodgkins continue to flower and are beginning to spread. I’ve had to net them against the pheasants and this year the flowers  are lovely. I’ve planted 3 more clumps along the front of a sunny border and last years Harmony and Alida bulbs are flowering too.  They are so delicate and we love to stop and admire them every time we go out of the garden.

Its taken three days to get this post this far because of computer fights of all kinds. I am thinking of relocating to somewhere I pad friendly as my PC is playing up and WordPress is so temperamental on a tablet. If anyone knows where I can blog or photoblog using my I pad , please let me know. And no adverts would be great too.