Helleborus orientalis

Above: Helleborus orientalis

Garden diary: February

16 March 2004

Spring officially begins on 21 March, I believe, but this morning it had arrived, I would say, if I were taking my cues from nature in my garden.

While I was having my morning coffee, I heard a sound not heard all winter - buzzing - and saw a bee flying through the garden, and shortly afterwards, a butterfly. I noticed too that the hyacinths in pots by the back door seemed to have visibly grown in stature since a couple of days before, and were just beginning to open. Last night I saw frogs in the pond, and heard one croaking, presumably for a mate.

It seemed this year that growth was stalled a few times by cold periods, and even a few days ago I was looking at the garden and wondering when the bright green exuberant growth would begin. Looking at it now it makes me realise how everything is waiting there, ready to make up for any delay caused by bad weather. It seems to be moving now at a great speed.

Birds are singing everywhere. In the cold weather the garden was visited by many different bird species, including rare sights in this garden - the song thrush and chaffinch - and they continue to visit now. The female blackbird was busily searching for nesting materials, and flew into the ivy with an unwieldy beakful of vegetation. The weather is mild, and sunny, and there is so much to do.

10 March 2004

Since last writing, I've managed to get the old bath into position in Kitchen Corner, and it's now ready to be planted up. Rather than litter this page with pictures of the old bath, I've covered this on a separate page.

A raised bed made from gravel boards has also been constructed in front of the ivy where our cats Spike and Leaps were buried. This has been planned for some time, as the area looked a bit sad after the Clematis armandii that had been planted there had mysteriously died last year. As it's at the back of the flowerbed, with only the wall behind, it was possible to put together a fairly substantial raised area. At present the raised bed looks just like a large wooden box sitting at the back of the flowerbed, and it seems very prominent. I'm assuming that in time it will blend in, when planted up, and with the garden growing up in front of it.

I've done the usual late winter job of checking the potted hostas for overwintered slugs, which can often be found in the bottom on the pots, having crept in through the drainage holes. I was out in a blizzard at one point, trying to tackle this job, as I was determined to get all the hostas done that day. In the end I had to give up as I realised there was no need to be so heroic, no medals were going to be awarded for bravery and resilience here, and I wasn't playing a lead role in a gritty drama, though grit did feature, in the tops of the finished pots.

The hosta pots did have points of growth appearing, but growth of everything seems to have slowed, as the weather turned colder again, with snow and plummeting temperatures. I did my best to protect the less hardy plants, which were shuffled right into the corner near the house, and covered with old sheets and polythene. (Yes, I forgot to invest in horticultural fleece.)

New lily bulbs have been planted in pots, and the previous year's bulbs repotted in fresh compost, or planted in the garden. A few had to be disposed of, as they were showing signs of either disease or rot - the compost in some of the pots did seem rather too wet. This seems to have happened where drainage holes have been blocked, often it seems because of earthworms taking up residence in the pots. I must remember to put some kind of mesh over the drainage holes, to discourage this. There are so many pots out there that looking after them all is fairly "high maintenance".

In Woodland Corner, the hellebores are flowering and the dicentras are forming into healthy-looking clumps of leaf. The Iris unguicularis has continued flowering by the foot of the south-facing wall, while the Akebia quinata produces its small purple flowers nearby, with its new leaves beginning to unfurl. The potted hyacinth bulbs are beginning to push up their fat flowerheads.

Yesterday a song thrush visited the bird table - a rare site. I discovered why the song thrush might be a rare visitor when I saw how determinedly the blackbird kept chasing it off.

Back to March highlights and diaries



Above: Narcissus

Garden diary: April