April round up

“When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.” John Wyndam, The day of the Triffids.

Nearly a month of dry weather and perfect sunshine has lent a surreal feel to lockdown. The light seems to have been clearer, giving a hyper-realistic glow to the garden colours and even the birdsong seem louder. Its like someone has upped the contrast and brightness while muting the background city noise, lending a slightly unsettling dreamlike quality to the garden. However, as April draws to a close I can report that normal service has resumed in Yorkshire and some much needed rain is pouring from the grey skies.

With the greenhouse installed, I have had a bit more time this month to appreciate the garden and give it some much needed tlc. The soil in the back has been trampled, dug and generally messed around by building work to the extent it looked and felt half dead – reduced to grey dust or cracked, cement hard clay. Drastic action was required and a ton of well rotted manure later I could feel it breathe a sigh of relief. I wouldn’t normally spread manure at this time of year, but I wouldn’t normally have this much bare earth either.

The tulips have been stars – glowing pops of colour to pick up the sunshine. A job for last autumn was to replace the dark Queen of the Night tulips in the front garden with something brighter, and it has worked really well with these parrot feathered yellow beauties which pick out the bright new growth of the box bushes. Describing a plant a ‘cheerful’ is usually a way of being rude about carpet bedding, but tulips really are cheerful and have made me smile. The pics below show 2019 vs 2020.

I have been trying for some time to establish snowdrops in the lawn without success. Like real snow, a drift of snowdrops is glorious while a dusting soon fades. Since we moved here I’ve planted many bulbs in my front lawn but I never get more than a flurry of snowdrops in the spring. We are always told to plant snowdrops ‘in the green’ when the flowers have faded but their leaves remain, but this is very fiddly when you’re planting into established turf.
A few weeks ago I dug up a congested clump from the border and poked them into spade slits in the lawn. Curiously, each bulb was composed of a ‘double bulb’ with the bottom bulb shrivelled and a new, firmer swelling nearer the surface. I have searched online and asked on a couple of internet forums but no-one seems to have heard of it before. Its as though the plant has abandoned its old bulb and decided to make a new one nearer the surface. I have been delaying mowing the front lawn to give the existing snowdrops leaves time to die back and in that time a sprinkling of violets has appeared. Got to love a biodiverse lawn!

Other stars of the garden have been the forget-me-knots which dot themselves happily around and provide a lovely, cloudy blue foil to the springtime acid greens. Monty Don recommends moving the young plants around to get them best placed, but I find they spread themselves so prolifically all that is needed is to pull them up once they get mildewed, and then they magically appear wherever needed the next year.

Last year’s delphinium seedlings are now teenagers and have been planted out. In Helen Dillon’s Garden book she describes delphiniums as ‘being in intensive care from the moment they are born’ and I am not sure I have the stamina for all the staking and being on permanent slug watch. I give it fairly even odds as to they make it through to stately blue spires this summer.

An unexpected arrival to the garden has been Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, an elegant dark version of our native cow parsley. I had a few unsuccessful goes at germinating this from seed a couple of years ago and this year two plants have popped up of their own accord, one right in the middle of a path. Whether the original seeds, chucked on a border, finally germinated or whether they arrived of their own accord I do not know. Either way they are very welcome.

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