My last general post on the progress of the garden was on 27th March and I can’t say that much has changed since then. Although there are more narcissi flowering, the forsythia and peach blossom are still waiting to burst and the full-on yellow of the daffodil season has not yet hit the garden.
My diary entry for 6th April 2012 says that I was clearing out the hyacinths and narcissi minnow and bridal wreath from pots on the terrace and replanting with late spring bedding. Also the tulip season had started – Princess Irene and Abu Hassan were already in full flower. This year the only tulips in flower are in pots in the greenhouse (tulip Recreado I think). I also planted tulips in my greenhouse bed this year and these have fat buds, so should flower very soon. As soon as they start to open I will cut them for the house, as they won’t last long in the greenhouse. It was a last minute decision in November to plant my remaining hyacinth and tulip bulbs in the greenhouse bed when the weather broke, but it is certainly something I will repeat. It has been lovely to have the bulbs growing in such a sheltered environment and I feel quite happy to cut the flowers for the house, something I would be reluctant to do when the bulbs are part of a border plan.
I was pleased and relieved to see that the peonies in the cuttings garden have made it through the wet winter and are sending up lovely dark pink shoots. I have planted ten more that I ordered from Claire Austin earlier in the year. I am looking forward to the day when I can pick armfuls of peonies to brighten up the house. As peonies are one of my favourite flowers, I also include them in most of my border plans (although I only cut the flowers from these if the weather is threatening to ruin them). In addition to the spectacular flowers I love to include peonies in the borders for their beautifully coloured upright foliage. Staked early with canes or pea sticks they look good until the hard frosts come.
I am still worrying about the lifeless lavender in the Cuttings Garden, but am pleased that the tulips Purple Prince that I planted in 2011 are looking strong. This will be their second year, so I am interested to see if the flowers will look good enough to cut for the house. A number of other varieties have not made it through as the ground in the Cuttings Garden has been flooded for most of the winter.
I have been making a big effort to clear out the cold frames so that I can move trays of seedlings out of the greenhouse and get on with sowing the tender vegetable seeds and half hardy flower seeds. I want to sow sweetcorn, beans, cucumbers and courgettes as well as a few more leeks and some trays of spinach. I also need to sow the first basil, coriander and parsley. The flowers that I am anxious to get going are sunflowers and cosmos. The zinnias can wait until later in the month. I have trays of ammi majus, asters, cornflowers, snapdragons and larkspur waiting to be pricked out, but I need some space to put them in! I am planning to direct sow carrots, parsnips and beetroot this weekend (probably under a fleece until they germinate) and I am going to start rows of broad beans and peas, including mange tout and sugar snaps.
There are trays of sweet peas in the cold frames ready to go out, as well as foxgloves that I started from seed last year. I had planned to plant out the foxgloves in the autumn, but the weather defeated me so I kept them tucked up in the cold frames. I am hoping that if I get them in now they will still flower in May. You can also see the many pots of Lily of the Valley, which I have started from bare root plants bought in January. I am going to keep a few pots under cover hoping they will flower, but the rest will be moved very soon to locations around the garden in the hope that at least one group will take and form a colony. This is one plant that I am struggling to establish in this garden, so fingers crossed for this year! My other big greenhouse job is to start off my many dahlias in big pots, ready for planting out in June. I would normally have already done this, but the greenhouse has been so cold and full that I have decided to leave them until now.
On a general note I am still rushing to get all the borders in order before the growing season really starts. I am finishing pruning the roses and giving them a first feed, cutting back hydrangea heads and feeding all the hedges and shrubs. I still need to refresh the compost in my permanently planted pots and I am starting my regular watering regime for the pots.
As a final job the forecast for the weekend is positively balmy, so I also need to dig out my t- shirts and suncream!