This week, the weather is feeling warmer and more spring-like, and I certainly welcome the signs of new life in the garden. The bluetits are choosing their favourite nest box (they are a regular and welcome visitor to my garden) and sparrows have been spotted gathering nesting materials. There’s a great sense of anticipation, as though the Earth is holding it’s breath before bursting forth into full bud. One plant which always makes a return to my garden is Aquilegia - or Granny’s Bonnet - often turning up unannounced and proceeding to self-seed everywhere. They’re not shy about combining their attributes either, so you never quite know what you’re going to get – blue one year, pink the next. The seed-heads offer food for birds in Autumn, and a hiding place for insects over winter.
Another plant making a welcome return to my garden is the lovely Hebe. This is a slightly more recent import from New Zealand. The array of available cultivars is dizzying, but they all have the same leaf structure - so are easy to identify. The setting of leaves either side of the stem in twos, each row at right angles to the next is called ‘opposite decussate pairs’. Hebe leaves and growth range from tiny to large, and the flowers are in an increasing range of colours, so there will be one to suit your garden.
Popping its up in my border is the most recognisable sign of spring, the much-loved daffodil. These are only just pushing up above the soil, but in a week or so, this border will be a riot of yellows and creams. Daffodils will spread and come up every year if they’re happy where they are, so it’s worth making an investment, and thinking ahead to plant in the autumn - your early spring reward will be worth it! However if you’re late to the daffodil party, you can purchase already-sprouted bulbs and plant them where you like – the same with snowdrops and bluebells.
I’ve often thought that tulip shoots look like breaching whales, or sandworms (for the SF-crowd). Whatever they look like now, in a few weeks, they will have fully flowered, and their beautiful colours will significantly brighten up the garden. Tulips don’t always last for very long, and need replacing regularly, but there are so many to choose from, you can spend some time working through the range!
Also sprouting in a corner of my garden is a foxglove. If you have one foxglove in your garden, in two years you’ll have dozens! Two years, because the humble foxglove is bi-annual, meaning that it germinates and grows a rosette of leaves one year, and flowers and sets seed the next. You have to be patient, but it’s worth the wait.
As a wildlife-friendly gardener, it’s always a surprise what comes up year-to-year in my garden. I allow a lot of plants to self-seed; I follow a no-dig method, and encourage wildlife which in turn encourages pollination and the movement of different seeds between my garden and others. It was a pleasant surprise this year to find a baby fir tree beside the fence; it probably carried on the wind from the mature specimens nearby. Then of course there are the plants I’ve forgotten about planting…a lovely surprise example of this was last year’s ring of native bluebells around the base of a cherry tree. Bulbs are easy to forget about until they spring forth with their greenery, and last summer, the abundance of redcurrants which joined my blackcurrants in the fruit patch.
Do you find yourself looking at your garden in despair, rather than anticipatory delight? I’d love to be able to help you rediscover the magic of your own outdoor space. Please drop me a message if you’d like to get started planning your own dream garden in the year ahead.