What a difference a couple of months makes.
Last time I did the rounds with the camera was the end of January: barely a leaf had burst its bud at that time, I hadn’t even started the post-winter clearup, and everything was looking decidedly bleak and not a little scruffy around the edges.
I woke up, along with the garden, some time in mid-February. And in the six weeks or so since then, everything has changed.
First up (of course) is the veg garden: always my first priority at seed-sowing time. I’ve been ferrying eyewatering quantities of scaffold boards back on the roof of my poor groaning family estate to divide up the long, thin space into 4ft x 10ft beds. At first they were all re-covered with the black plastic which has been keeping my soil protected over winter: but now, gradually, it’s all coming off.
The far end is well up and away: with the addition of a bit of bought-in soil improver (not yet quite confident about how good my soil might be), new potatoes, onions and shallots have joined the overwintering broad beans and autumn-sown onions.
Under those cloches are two varieties of pea; Feltham First (early and robust) and heritage variety Telephone, which reaches up to 5ft tall, so I’m told. Further down there are rows of leeks and carrots under fleece for protection against carrot fly.
Greenhouse no. 1 – unheated – is filling up: the other day I had to rig up the coldframe (in bits since the post-move chaos) in a hurry to get the first of the sweetpeas, chard and overwintered marigolds ready to go out.
But just look at Greenhouse no. 2 – the one that’s frost-free. I have run out of room. There is no other way to put it. The windowsills in the house are groaning with seedlings too. What am I going to do!
Right, never mind the veg: what about the rest of it?
Here’s the rock garden, or rather the herb garden to be. Nicely trimmed these days: and I’ve started placing a few pots of bits and bobs around the place ready to be planted.
In the blue pot is an olive tree, about six inches tall when I got it (it was a freebie which looked a lot better in the magazine than what actually arrived on my doorstep).
I nurtured it and nursed it, and now it’s about 5ft high and a lovely healthy young tree. Then it got left outside in the snow and ice, and I resigned myself to losing it: but no. It didn’t even lose its leaves.
So since it’s survived that, I figure it’ll breeze being planted outside. It’s moved around this patch a few times now, trying to find the right spot for what I hope will one day be a fetchingly gnarled evocation of Italy on my doorstep, and a rather fine backdrop to all my Mediterranean herbs.
There’s also plenty going on here quite independently of my own feeble efforts to spruce things up. Little pretties keep popping up all over the place. I keep stopping in my tracks on the way out of the house: the other day it was because I spotted a clump of pulsatilla. Pulsatilla! In my garden!
Aren’t they lovely? Those palest grey fluffy feathers set off the dusty mauve of the flowers so perfectly.
And look at this: in the hollow between two sides of the old stone wall, partially collapsed, a little colony of windflowers has sprung up.
I’ve spent many thorny hours clearing the bank above where my tropical edibles patch will eventually be. It’s not only painful, but also slightly unnerving as this bank is about 12ft high and much of my bramble removal was done while hanging precariously off a handy branch. Must invest in a ladder.
It’s all looking a lot better now, so I guess the splinter-pocked fingers were worth it.
There’s more pot placement here: you can make out the fig in the far corner, and just out of sight there’s a Pawlonia tomentosa I was given – half-dead on arrival but now, rather excitingly, reviving.
And other things are popping up here, too: lupins and a carpet of some kind of small white comfrey. It’s beautiful, the bees love it, but it is obviously a little invasive: I shall have to think carefully about where I move it to.
So on to the only other bit I’ve done anything to; the circular bed around our shady seating area.
I’ve recently been told by someone who’s lived in the village a lot longer than me that this was once a pond. This is answering a lot of questions: why, for example, a hefty Rodgersia (usually a bog plant) can survive so well in a free-draining, chalky soil.
I have an uncomfortable feeling this circular bed may be hiding a pond liner of epic proportions. We’re talking probably concrete; maybe not even split. We are talking bog garden.
This may rather alter my plans to turn this area into a scented garden full of daphnes and Christmas box and wintersweet.
For now however I have just cleared the winter debris and I’m about to launch into a huge weed-through, followed by my standard fall-back in situations where I have little time and large areas to fill: I’m planning to sow this lot with seed from Pictorial Meadows, already sitting in an inviting little packet on my desk as I type.
It isn’t all weeds and bog plants though: tucked up on the bank, a little higher than the rest, there is a paeony already swelling into bud.
A paeony! In my garden! (another chalk-loving plant I have never been able to grow before. My cup brimmeth over: snowdrops, primroses, pulsatillas and now peonies. Can it get any better than this?)
And last but absolutely not least: I haven’t touched this bit but I have been in love with it for a whole month now. I have, on the hill that rises at the back of my garden, a host of golden daffodils.
There are hundreds of them, across the width of the garden, and we have been giving them away to friends in big fat bunches as well as stuffing every vase in the house. Whoever planted them, many decades ago: I hope you are somewhere just as beautiful right now.
Thank you to Helen, aka Patient Gardener, for hosting the End of Month View: the perfect opportunity to take a step back and take the big view for a change.