We have had a spate of weekends away from home lately.
It has been lovely to visit friends and family and explore places familiar and new, but hard meanwhile to keep up with the garden’s pace in snatched evenings after work, though not for want of trying – not to mention writing and reading posts. With each absence there is a brief moment of mitigation for this loss of time; that first delicious walk around the garden after a couple of days away, bags abandoned in the hallway as we rush outside, exclaiming over how much everything has grown, caught by a tantalising glimpse of something new. Yesterday evening, as well as finding the alliums had fully opened in our absence, we discovered the long-watched first paeony bloom, now resplendent in layers of crimson crinoline. Beautiful. I must try and find the label with its name.
One unwelcome souvenir we brought back earlier this month was a rather vicious virus that rendered us both useless for the best part of a week, lingering on into one of the few weekends we were actually in residence. Fortunately the garden has been getting on rather well in spite of our sporadic attendance upon it.
While we have mostly recovered now, the lawnmower has fallen sick; and the grass and daisies – and clover – are rocketing up and taking on a distinctly shaggy look. There is even a pretty little purple viola that has sprung up in the middle of the lawn in a patch of clover – I transplanted one from the grass to the border last year too. We are watching the post anxiously for the new carburettor which should get us back on track once more.
On Saturday, though, we made a visit to Crocus, the online nursery, for their first post-Chelsea open day of the year, and some much more pleasant souvenirs. The weather was fine, dry and quite warm, with a layer of light cloud preventing us from getting too hot as we perused the vast ranks of plants. Regardless of divided opinion on this year’s show-gardens and the judging, there is little dispute that, as ever, there were some striking plants and planting combinations to enjoy, and this was reflected at the nursery. The mechanics of the open day seemed even better organised than on my visit two years ago, though one plant that my Mum labelled and set on the path to be picked up did not make it back to the collection area with our other choices. Fortunately it was not something that was in short supply, and I could race back across the nursery to grab a replacement for her.
With the garden filling out nicely now, we made a relatively restrained number of purchases; a replacement Salvia nemorosa Caradonna, as the one we’ve enjoyed for the past two years seems to have regrettably succumbed to winter wet this year (though there’s always a slim chance it may push up a very late shoot for a few weeks yet). The new plant will be added to a slightly sunnier spot, with lots of gravel for drainage, to try and encourage it to settle here.
We also picked up an auricula – Primula auricula Taffeta – to join P. a. ‘Black Jack’ in our fledgling auricula collection; the lovely red Dicentra spectabilis Valentine, to join the pink and white varieties that seem happy here; Astilbe x arendsii ‘Fanal’ (a plant I have tended to avoid as I often find the flowers too showy, though the foliage is lovely so we shall see whether this will change my mind!); and Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’, with beautiful dark foliage, and long purple-flushed spires of white flowers to follow. We also took a handsome Deschampsia cespitosa in full flower back as a gift for my Mother-in-law; this was from the Gold-medal winning Daily Telegraph show garden designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole.
I didn’t take a camera with me to the nursery, to concentrate on sharing the day with my family safe from the distraction of stopping for a shot here, and another there… which I suspect can become rather frustrating for others. It also kept my hands free to pick up plants! I could not then capture the scale and beauty of the manicured pillars, lollipops and pleached lines of copper and green beech and hornbeam that had returned from the show gardens, which were stunning – though far far outside our budget! They gave a glimpse of the magic, though, that must have been in the air at Chelsea, amid the crowds and hype.
Another lovely surprise that we returned to yesterday was the first flowers on one of the Aquilegia skinneri ‘Tequila Sunrise’ that my Mum and I raised from seed last year. This is a small delicate plant with lovely dark-flushed foliage and red and yellow flowers, joining the masses of taller aquilegias around the garden in cooler colours.
I’m looking forward to a quieter month now; perhaps this warm sunny spell heralds the start of a fine relaxing summer, with lots of days in the garden. Fingers crossed…