The week began with storm ‘Brendan’ passing through, bringing one or two branches down with it. Today though it was clear, calm and bright. For the first time in a while I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the garden. It was perhaps only about five degrees at midday but with the sun overhead and some fairly tough digging to do I was soon comfortable in a t-shirt. Although I did keep my hat and gloves on. By five o’clock this evening there was still a faint glimmer of twilight on the horizon and it felt like the garden might just have sensed the extra daylight too as it starts to show some subtle signs of beginning to wake up.
Six on Saturday is a weekly garden diary form all over the world. Curated over at the brilliant propagator site.
1) The Christmas tree lives on
It is time to empty last years compost bin and most of it will go on to the vegetable patch. I haven’t dug the vegetable patch for a few years and compost or manure just gets spread on top every winter. There is still time for this to be broken down by frosts and little creatures before the ground is warm enough for sowing in spring.
As one bin gets emptied so another begins to be filled. To start this one off I made a bed with some branches form the old Christmas tree. They will compost slowly but in the meantime they form a structure which allows a little air to circulate under the pile and hopefully will help it to compost. It is also the most lovely smelling compost pile I have had.
A simple, every day kind of flower for many but our native primula vulgaris is arguably one of my favourite of all garden plants. It actually started to flower at the end of last year but on a sunny morning like today, when it is in full flower, it feels like a prelude to spring, even though the main show is some way off yet.
3) Forced hyacinths
These hyacinths haven’t been ‘forced’ very hard at all. After about twelve weeks they are out of the shed, only a month or so after Christmas has passed! I don’t mind though, they are just as much to be enjoyed in January and February. They are now being potted into pans and will be moved one by one into the summerhouse and the kitchen when they come into flower.
4) Resolution no. 1
I have begun work on the list of gardening resolutions that I drew up at the turn of the year. Closest to the house (and hence first on the list) was the drainpipe conundrum at the front door. The combination of a deciduous sambucus and clematis works fine to cover the pipe for half of the year but not just now.
And so the sambucus came out. In its place I opted for an unpretentious euonymus ’emerald gaiety’. Its a very common plant but a ‘good doer’. The hope is that it will scramble a little up the wall and conceal the pipe. It ought to be easy enough to clip back if it is getting over confident. In front of this I planted a group of sarcocca ‘winter gem’. They will grow to about two feet and should fill out with some evergreen foliage and offer a nice scent at the doorstep in winter. I moved the erysimum that were grown from cuttings last year into a clump by the edge of the path. Finally, I put in a trellis to encourage the clematis to fill out better than it did previously on wire supports. It might take a year or two to see if this works.
5) Resolution no. 2
The first job was decidedly easier then the next one on the list — removing a six foot high / four foot deep overgrown ‘hedge’ of holly, ivy, elder. Amongst all of that are the odd bit of beech and privet that had probably once been the original hedge. I have lost track of the number of stumps I have had to dig out of this garden (few if any of them were ever planted deliberately). Each time I do this I swear it is the last time but this time it definitely will be – unless I decide one day in my old age day to dig out trees that have planted myself!
I am about half way there. I have cleared all the ivy back and removed four of the seven holly trees. The last ones will hopefully come out tomorrow. After that I will need to go over it again with a mattock and and a fork to get the remaining roots out. I am pleased with having reclaimed the wall along the side of the garden. When we first moved here you couldn’t see this under a dense mass of ivy and nettles. I can see now that I should have done this before. It will let in more light to that side of the garden, open up a new bed for planting and I may even be able to let enough light through to grow a climbing rose on the south-west facing side of the outhouse.
I couldn’t finish without of course noticing the first of this years snowdrops. I am not a collector and all those that grow in the garden are simple forms that have slowly been divided and spread. I love seeing them because, like the primulas, they are testament that the garden is starting to turn form dormancy to growth once again. For some reason the ones that are in flower are those which grow in some of the more shady corners of the garden. There are still some dark days ahead but there are signs of hope out there.
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