Signs of spring

It’s now officially spring, and though you wouldn’t know it from the weather, new growth is breaking out across the garden, mostly in the form of spring bulbs. There are still some snowdrops around, but they’re fading fast. Various types of crocuses are out now (though the Crocus tomasinianus in the lawn have been and gone).

We’ve got various clumps of the small, early, tete-a-tete daffodils; most of which were in the garden before we arrived . Most have been relocated as we’ve been implementing the new design.

I rescued a number of dark-flowered hellebores from the back of overgrown beds, and reset them as under-planting to hydrangeas and a paperbark maple…

Elsewhere, this is what we refer to as our woodland – a small patch of ground in the shade of the house and the chicken enclosure, beneath an unusually aged lilac tree. It’s where we amalgamated many of the rhododendrons that were scattered around the garden when we arrived, along with a few pieris. Our soil is neutral rather than acidic; sandy, and not exactly humus-rich, so it’s perhaps rather surprising that ericaceous plants seem to do so well in this area.

One large section of the lilac died last year, and I suspect the rest of the plant won’t be far behind it. We dug out huge quantities of the ‘bootlaces’ (technically rhizamorphs) of honey fungus that flourished in this area, around a decaying tree stump, but inevitably we couldn’t get them all. We have the most common form of honey fungus (Armillaria gallica) which is very good at finishing off trees and shrubs that are weak, or coming to the end of their life. So I’ve planted a replacement in the space that has opened up: a Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender silhouette’. This is a columnar tree, so it gives height without taking up too much space. It has glossy lobed leaves which turn the most amazing colours in autumn. Some sources claim it’s resistant to honey fungus (although the RHS says it’s susceptible!)

Many of our new trees, including the fruit trees in the orchard (it’s an orchard if you’ve got five trees, and we’ve got six, even if they are small) are budding. This is a plum. Last year it produced only three plums. If the buds are anything to go by, it should be a better harvest this year…

The roses are shooting too. They are mostly young plants, but I’m hoping they really come into their own this year…

And this tree peony is well ahead of most woody plants in the garden…

The plants are ready for the growing season to start in earnest, and I can’t wait. All we need now is for the weather to get the message!

text & images © Graham Wright