Spring has come early. The daffodils have joined the snowdrops and crocuses in bringing us cheer
Today I got out into the garden to do some clearing up. The hedge at the back of the garden, where the conifers used to be, is looking decidedly bedraggled. My idea that it would be full of life and colour and a huge improvement on the conifers has yet to materialise. Partly it is just winter and some of the things growing up it have yet to come into full joyousness but the bare bits are made slightly more complex by neighbours moving in behind the hedge. The house behind ours has been empty for a year or so and it hasn’t mattered very much that you can see straight into it but now we (and the new neighbours) seem just a little too transparent. Not that we get up to anything interesting but a certain level of privacy would be good. Today I used the springlike weather and some recent birthday gifts to try and fill the gaps a bit. Along with the existing honeysuckle and roses, I have now added another honeysuckle, a pink flowered jasmine, a pyracantha, a spring flowering clematis and some lavender seedlings.
If these all grow like they are supposed to the gaps in the hedge should fill up and there should be some winter greenery and early spring flowers and perhaps the neighbours won’t have quite such a ringside view of our family goings on. Meanwhile, the hedge threw up yet another piece of treasure, after all the footballs and whatnot from last year, today I found a keyring under the hedge, complete with key for the shed padlock, lost about five or six years ago and long since replaced:
It’s very muddy and a little rusty but it has returned from the planet of the keyrings to its proper home.
I’ve got a bit behind on the blog, what with the usual winter darkness and other commitments but, today, spring is in the air at last. I made a pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens with my mother to look at the snowdrops:
The gardens have a bare beauty at this time of year, with architectural trees, some tiny flowers and plenty of birdsong. They were also busy with visitors: families with small children, young couples, older people, tourists. We had a little reminisce over the generations of visits we have made to the gardens, always a popular place with children of all ages. We also enjoyed reading all the plaques on the memorial benches, and sitting on a few of the benches. I noticed that there is now a ‘free library‘, down near the hot houses:
currently filled mostly with novels.
Note of course that public libraries are also free and have many more books but it’s good to know that, should you find yourself sitting on one of the many memorial benches with nothing to read, you can find something in the free library.
Having tried out a few more benches, sniffed a few witch hazels and listened to robins in the trees, we came away with a bag full of plants from the shop – my mother’s birthday present to me. By the time we got home it was dark so the plants will have to wait until tomorrow to be planted. Meanwhile we had a good sniff of the winter box (sarcococca confusa) that sits just outside the bike shed on the way to my kitchen door:
In the dark days of January I have not got into the garden very often. I was away this weekend but got home in time to have a quick look round before it got dark. I was delighted to see the first snowdrops coming up:
and that the hamamelis (witch hazel) is in flower:
I love these signs of spring and they are a little early this year I think. The hamamelis is particularly pleasing as I’ve been struggling to keep these plants alive over several years. I used to grow them in pots but they have been destroyed by vine weevils – for more on these, see here . So early this year I bought a new one and planted it straight in the ground. It was doing well until it got a little damaged by the football playing musicians , who are, to quote my neighbour, ‘better at music than football’.
It seems to have survived both the weevils and musicians and has produced a lovely array of sweetly scented orange flowers to herald the spring.
The world of technology and other things is working against me today. The weather on the other hand has improved somewhat. To celebrate the joy of British weather, here are some photos of my flooded garden and allotment on Wednesday:
followed by spectacular ice on the pond the next day:
Today has been a pretty bleak start to a few days away from work, in which I hoped to get lots of gardening done. But everything in the garden is saying ‘no, wait! It’s too cold’. So I stayed inside and got on with repotting my tomatoes and cucumbers:
As usual, there are too many tomatoes, three varieties this year: San Marzano, Tigerella and Ailsa Craig. I sowed two types of cucumber: a green one and the ever-lovely yellow Chrystal Apple. Of course I didn’t label them, thinking ‘It’ll be fine, I’ll know what they are when the fruits form’. Only one type has germinated and of course I don’t know which one. Here’s hoping the others are just coming more slowly.
Later, I thought I’d better get out for a walk and then I came back to see what was happening in the garden. There are some tiny signs of life:
Here tarragon, chives and lovage all peeking up through leaf mould and general gloom in the herb bed in the front garden.
In the back garden there is the reliable rhubarb, winning in a competition with the daffodils which are barely in bud:
The purple sprouting broccoli produced some lovely florets in the autumn but has been in the huff since about December. It is now beginning to show signs of new growth
And I have a clever plan to have more later this year and into next year:
The wonder of seedlings never fails. On the strength of this, I sowed some flower seeds in pots inside to bring on more hope of summer .
Cowometer showing deep snow on the pond again this morning:
but it is thawing a little. I went out to the front garden and cleared the pavement outside our house. Other people in the road had cleared their drives. I am more concerned about pedestrians on the pavement. I also built a car-blocking snowperson in the driveway, just in case:
My sons did this the last time we had decent snow here, nearly ten years ago.
It was a better snowman but since neither of them were available to do this today, I thought it was my duty to do so. Looking at that old photo, I notice that the snow was less impressive but also that it was before I dug up the front carpark and planted roses and lavender, herbs and daffodils. You can’t see much of them in this photo either but the spring bulbs are there and they will reappear soon!
On the first day of spring, as the so-called Beast from the East has visited Edinburgh, this would have to be a snow post. I’ve been watching the snow over the last couple of days, creeping up over the beasts by the pond:
Bella has not enjoyed the snow but has found special Bella ways of getting about:
The pond is a favourite part of the garden so she had to explore it in the snow
It’s still snowing tonight so I’ll provide a cowometer update and let you know if we can still see it tomorrow. As for the plants underneath all of that, who knows? Stay safe and warm.
I’ve had a February sort of weekend, with my favourite February flowers. I’ve visited my mother and acquired yet another witchhazel, third time lucky that this one will survive the vine weevils.
Then we went to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh in search of snowdrops.
We found quite a few. I had also been hoping to see some crocuses but it was rather a grey day and they were hiding. There were a few in the alpine house, protected from the biting wind and sharing the glory with these lovely irises:
The gardens can be rather bleak at this time of year but it’s nice just to wander round and enjoy the trees in all their architectural glory:
I’ve said here before that I think that February is overlooked. I have my own special reasons for liking February in all its oddness, its special shortness, its signs of spring and particularly its snowdrops.
What I set out to do was to put a little cutting of Moroccan mint in a pot in this teapot, which sadly lost its lid and was destined for the bin, ‘unless you want to put a plant in it?’. Of course I wanted to put a plant in it. So this little mint cutting, with little green leaves just peeping up above the soil now has a new appropriate home in a teapot. I have mint all over the garden, in pots at the front, and round the pond at the back. All the gardening advice books tell you not to plant mint in the ground, but my, slightly bizarre, idea of planting it round the pond seems to work. Its nice to have a few bits in pots as well though. Mint dies back in the winter but this year I tried the trick of freezing pieces in ice cubes:
I also froze some tarragon and some mixed herbs like this. They’re great for popping in an iced drink, or adding to soup, and lovely cooked with peas! I must remember to do more of these next summer when the herbs are at their best.
But back to my trip into the garden to make mint tea. What I hadn’t bargained for was that this would lead to a further two hours in the front garden, tidying up, cutting back and generally revelling in the joys of spring. The forecast had been for snow and sleet and all sorts of nastiness but today turned out to be a lovely, warm, sunny spring day. The crocuses came out:
Birds were tweeting and I even saw a bee. The garden has woken up from its winter slumber.
It’s a strange combination I know but it seems to work. And look down there in the corner, there are some lovely primroses too. The daffodils are absolutely at their best today. What’s more the sun was shining at last on this little dark corner of the garden. The thing about my daffodils is that they come out in stages. This was wholly unplanned but they start in early March and keep coming until the end of April. Here are today’s front garden gems:
And these ones are still waiting to come out.
Today I moved various garden projects forward. I fixed a collapsed raised bed and discovered a spider colony hiding in the long grass beside it:
I hope you’re not scared of spiders. They are the good guys so to be encouraged. I liked the colours on the faded wood as well.
Then I planted some more seeds, including this birthday card which has wild flower (or maybe weed?) seeds in the card:
Thank you to my sister and her family for this. Looking forward to seeing what comes up.
Then to do some cooking. I harvested a bowlful of rainbow chard which had survived the winter and sprung into new growth:There’s still some more to come and new rainbows have been planned, with this year’s rainbow chard seeds just beginning to germinate.
Finally, to do something with the rhubarb, I adapted a recipe that worked quite well last year with plums see here . Revised rhubarb flapjack recipe below:
Rhubarb (or plum) flapjack
450g plums or rhubarb
1/2 tsp mixed spice or ginger
50g dark sugar
250 g dark sugar
300g rolled porridge oats
140g plain flour
50g chopped walnuts
3 tsbp golden syrup
Halve and stone the plums (or rhubarb cut into small pieces), toss with the sugar and spice and leave to mix up nicely.
Mix together all the other dry ingredients
Melt the butter and the syrup in pan
Mix the melted butter with the dry ingredients to make the flapjack mixture.
Grease and line a baking tray.
Empty half the flapjack mixture onto the tray and flatten out.
Cover with the plums/rhubarb
Cover with the other half of the flapjack mixture.
Cook in a hot oven (200c/gas 6) for about 45 minutes until golden brown.