The sun finally made a return appearance on Saturday, though the air was still bitterly cold.
The beginning of each weekend finds me eager to discover how the garden has changed, particularly at this time of year when new life surging through the garden can show striking progress. This week the changes revealed were more subtle; the pale apricot buds of another hellebore have at last begun to open to reveal more magenta-speckled ivory flowers.
The sultry black catkins of Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys‘ continue to emerge, as shoots appear further down the stems, which are losing their red colouring slightly now. Once this plant has settled in, I plan to coppice it regularly to ensure a display of vivid red stems each year, as well as keeping it compact.
At last we brought home our rhubarb, from its ‘temporary’ home of the past four years in the garden of a relative. A little late, as the plant has already started back into growth, but hopefully it will find its feet this year. The crown split neatly, with a little assistance, into two pieces; each of which had several lovely salmon pink shoots pushing up alongside the first small leaves. We planted them both with room to spread alongside our young blackcurrant bushes; we shall resist the temptation to pick any stems this year as the plants settle, and hopefully next year will bring welcome rhubarb harvests again.
Despite the sub-arctic temperatures, the crocus finally unfurled once more this weekend in the sun which has been so scant all week. A day of sunshine also coaxed this carpet of aubretia into bloom on a neighbour’s fine set of stone steps nearby; each year this sight heralds the advent of spring and puts a smile on my face. (I rather love the stonework too).
Our own aubretia has fallen victim to my latest tidy-up, however. I raised many plants from seed two years ago and used them along the front of the narrow bed along the side of our house. Basking in the sun all day, and within easy reach of the side door, I designated this a herb bed and added a range of herbs throughout the strip of stony ground; lavender, sages, thymes, hyssop, oregano, rosemary and lemon verbena have since filled out the bed to varying degrees.
Even in February, though, with the scruffiness of winter still dominant and the new season’s growth yet to start, the bed already looked oversubscribed with both herbs and aubretia wrestling for space. With a slightly heavy heart I set to pulling them out a couple of weeks ago, determined to remove them before they leapt into bloom and weakened my resolve.
Stretches of bare soil have now been exposed along the front of the herb bed, which I hope to fill back up with less vigorous (and more edible) flowering herbs; I already have seeds for heartsease and chives, which will be more in keeping here, and hopefully the hyssops will continue to give more restrained splashes of purple along here. Some aubretia plants still line the edge of our driveway, so we will not be entirely without their colour around the garden, but part of me will miss their lovely range of purple hues along this bed in the spring.
I had originally planted two Centranthus ruber plants at the end of this bed, too; one white and one pink. Their location was also something of a placeholder while I decided where to make their final home, and along with the row of Aubretia led to these lovely scenes from March to May last year, not to mention a flurry of seedlings through the bed – as expected from such gregarious plants. Sadly seen as a weed by some, I am very fond of these valerians, but they are also earmarked to move this year to the ornamental beds.
I still haven’t quite pinned down where each shall go, though I am thinking of keeping the two colours separate.