This week my garden is overflowing with spring loveliness – everywhere I turn something delectable is coming into flower. I have to admit that it is all happening a little too quickly this year – no sooner had the first tulips started to flower than all the tulips decided to ignore my plans of successional flowering and began opening together. The blossom has been coming thick and fast and today I have lilacs in flower, which usually wait until the first week in May before making an appearance. At least the temperatures have dropped a little – yesterday my delicate spring flowers were starting to fry.
After last years disasters with the tulip fire fungus, mouldy peonies and roses which dropped their heads before opening – all as a result of a cold wet spring, I am just happy to have everyone looking healthy and vibrant and enjoying the sunshine. This week I have tried to capture the flouncy loveliness that is surrounding me in a grand arrangement full of my current favourites.
Looking at the different elements in turn first up is the spirea – I have to make the most of spirea ‘Arguta’ (also known as Bridal Wreath for obvious reasons) whilst she is flowering. This is one of my favourite spring shrubs and I have planted about five bushes along my Spring Walk. The flowers are fleeting – only lasting a couple of weeks but this is an elegant airy shrub that would make it onto my desert island list. You can also see a few muti flowered heads of narcissi ‘Silver Chimes’, which is the last but certainly not least in the narcissi flowering line up in my garden. Whist February is dominated by the yellow daffodils, white is the colour of March and early April as a succession of White Cheerfullness, Thalia, Pheasants Eye and Silver Chimes narcissi fill the spring beds.
My anemone patch is just getting going so I stole a few heads of the lovely white de Caen variety The Bride. I also picked a few heads of the beautiful orange tulip Ballerina. This lily flowered tulip has real staying power and as well as flowering for a good few weeks, she also comes back year after year.
Now that the seed pods are forming on my hellebores they are more reliable to use in an arrangement. This is one of the early flowering helleborus niger, also known as the Christmas Rose.
The Pheasants Eye narcissi is a pure bright white with that fabulous orange and yellow centre. Initially I was not intending to add tulips to this arrangement, but the lovely colouring in the Pheasant’s Eye lead to me choosing a few Ballerinas for a pop of colour.
If you look closely at the whole arrangement you will see tall stems of what is commonly called the summer snowflake or Leucojum aestivum Gravity Giant sitting above the other flowers. These snowflakes have been magnificent this year – bobbing above the narcissi in the Spring Walk and looking like little dancing fairies as they wave in the breeze.
I was also delighted to find that I have a mature hornbeam tree in the garden hiding behind a clump of sycamores – I don’t know how I have missed it in previous years. I love the fresh green of its new leaves and the delicate tassels are perfect for adding an unexpected element to a spring display.
I know cow parsley or Queen Anne’s Lace is a weed, but it is a weed that I encourage to populate Winter Walk. It makes a great follow on to all the tiny snowdrops, aconites and iris reticulata that have flowered in amongst the hellebores and is the last hurrah before this area goes to sleep until next winter. Whilst this lovely weed is flowering I will be collecting armfuls of it to fill large jugs around the house and to add to vases of tulips. As the cow parsley goes over I will replace it with ammi majus which should be flowering by mid May in my Cutting Garden.
Finally in this varied line up comes the creamy white muti headed narcissi Thalia. Anyone who visits my garden in early spring will soon realise how much I love this narcissi – I grow it everywhere planting more bulbs every year. Graceful and elegant, she is the perfect narcissi to me and I cannot get enough of her beauty. Whilst Thalia normally has a long flowering period, this weekends soaring temperatures have sadly brought most of her blooms to a premature end and I need to have a serious dead heading session to keep the garden looking perky.
All of these flowers have been arranged into fresh water and are supported by a ball of chicken wire sitting inside the bowl – this is my preferred way to arrange flowers if I am doing more than just popping them in a jug or vase. Before embarking on an arrangement like this I have two warnings for you:
- spring material is very new and droops quickly so do make sure you condition everything very well. I would advise putting your material straight into a bucket of water as you are cutting it and then re cutting the stems and giving them a long drink in deep water – preferably overnight in a cool dark room – before arranging. If you are planning to make the arrangement for a party, church etc do test all the materials beforehand to see how well they last. There is nothing worse than making a beautiful arrangement that droops on the day you make it.
- Treat the narcissi separately. Narcissi ooze a nasty sap when cut that is poisonous to other flowers. Cut them and soak them overnight in their own bucket which will give the ends time to seal – do not re cut them when putting them in the arrangement or the sap will start to run again. As long as the ends are sealed they should be fine to use with your other flowers.
Finally on this spring evening I thought I would share with you a view over our boundary fence looking into my neighbours land. This is a field full of mothers and babies and my gardening days are lifted by the constant bleats and baas that come from the field for most of the daylight hours. You can imagine how much time I am spending leaning over the fence watching the antics of these lambs. I know this is all going to end badly, but I am a butchers daughter, so I am quite aware of where my meat comes from. This is the kind of meat that I like to eat though – from animals reared with care in a natural environment rather than those that have spent a sad life in factory farming conditions.
I have one more week at home before we are heading off to Dubai to visit our eldest daughter. I have promised flowers for the church for Easter so those will be my Monday vase next week and then I will be away until the end of April. When I get back I have the excitement of preparing for my first Gather & Grow workshop with Brigitte from Moss & Stone. Our May workshop is now full but we will be advertising our Gather & Grow For Summer on 22nd June soon, so if you are interested do let me know. This workshop will be focusing very much on the roses – varieties, growing & pruning and lovely ways to arrange with them as well as looking at all the other early summer favourites which will hopefully be in flower by then.
As ever I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to join in with her challenge to find something from the garden to bring into the house every week of the year. Cathy always makes something lovely and she has the biggest range of props of anyone I know – her house must be a treasure trove of little delights! Do pop over and have a look for yourself and call in on some of the other contributors too if you have the time.