Helleborus orientalis

Above: Helleborus orientalis

Garden diary: February

5 March 2002

A pair of robins have been busy in the garden, apparently looking for somewhere to nest. After the nest in 2000 there was no sign of robins last spring, so their return is most welcome. Particularly when the robin sings, at dusk, from the forsythia near this window. One of the most hopeful sounds I know, and like all melodic birdsong, somehow other-wordly. When you hear a robin singing you stop what you're doing and listen. That in itself is a good thing, as we all spend too much time rushing about and fretting. When a robin is singing to welcome the approaching spring, nothing else matters much.

I have the heartening sight of a large collection of plastic plantpots full of plants I dug up from the garden in the autumn and potted up. These are waiting to be replanted, the ones that I couldn't get around to organising in the autumn. The collection is cheering because they are in general sprouting new growth, and only one looks like the contents may be dead. (There's always one, isn't there.)

I didn't get around to tackling them today, however, as on a whim I decided to rearrange the raised bed here in the corner by the house (romantically titled "Kitchen Corner"). The raised bed, I decided, was too wide and not deep enough. I removed the edging and moved it back a short distance towards the wall behind, adding the discarded earth to the raised area to make it deeper. The plants in here, Arum italicum "Pictum", Euphorbia robbiae, snowdrops and epimediums, all had to be lifted and replanted. This raised bed, I noticed, didn't look so good this year, and as I'm so short on space, and have so many things in pots, I thought even a minor adjustment would be worthwhile. I now have a slightly bigger gravelled area on which to stand the ever-increasing number of potted hostas.

The hostas start into growth late, and at different rates. Some are showing thick healthy points of growth already, while some look like a pot with gravel on top.

22 March 2002

As spring has now officially sprung, it's a very busy time in the garden. It has been difficult to work on the garden and on this website simultaneously (the soil gets all over the keyboard).

Strange how I spend ages waiting for spring, then suddenly there it is, and I realise I've got to get out there into the garden to do really essential tasks, instead of merely pottering and trying to find things to do, as I've done in the winter. The last few days the weather here has been perfect for gardening, even to the extent of conveniently raining just after dark to water in all the new plantings (the ones you may have missed in the general excitement and frenetic planting activity).

T-shirt Wearing Day

Today was a landmark day, being the First T-shirt-Wearing-Day out in the garden. The first day in the year when you find yourself "too hot" when gardening is always a noteworthy occasion. The summery attire became necessary when temperatures soared mid-afternoon.

Okay, they didn't really, this is Yorkshire, UK, and it is only March. But it was pleasantly warm, and the extra heat generated by lifting stone slabs and carrying buckets of pebbles about meant the extra layers I've been used to wearing were no longer necessary.

Spring cleaning

Carrying pebbles about was one small part of a general garden overhaul that has taken up many hours during this last week. The garden had a rather dilapidated, end-of-winter, trodden and muddy look about it. Anyone who has paths made of loose gravel will probably understand what I mean by "trodden and muddy". My off-white limestone chippings were predominantly brown, with no pleasant crunching sound when walked on, owing to the soil and leaf debris that had collected over the winter.

Washing gravel is a strange thing to do, but necessary. I hope it won't be necessary more than once a year. It's one of those times, when you're glad to have a really small garden, as this means less gravel to wash.

I've cleaned up all the paths, including the brick ones, and repaired and replaced raised bed edgings, and even cleaned out the gutters on the sheds. What a hero.

Planting and planning

This is the interesting bit of course. This year I'm trying to be a bit more adventurous with colour, not quite as daring as Christopher Lloyd yet, but a bit more daring than last year.

I'm also trying to make more of the small space by exploiting the fact that some plants do their thing early and others later. I always recognised this but didn't really make the most of the associated possibilities - to get more planting into the same area. I managed it with the alliums - of which I have many - which were underplanted with hardy geraniums that fill out and cover the allium leaves, but I'm sure I can think of more combinations.

The best bits of now

The best bits of now are: new foliage on the early-flowering clematis - these plants always look so totally dead and twiggy and fragile over the winter, then always surprise me with the vigorous growth that appears in the early spring. Also the Osmanthus, flowering beautifully this year. Last year it had to be moved from the front "garden". The Osmanthus seems relieved at being liberated from the arid earth of the front forecourt.

Otherwise, the bright green growth of everything.

Back to March highlights and diaries



Above: Narcissus

Garden diary: April