Last Sunday, a blaze of sunshine lured me – and my furry helpers – into the garden from breakfast until dusk.
Our ground is saturated from this winter’s heavy rainfall, and the previous day had exacerbated this, but with new shoots emerging throughout the garden I was determined to start tidying up to make way for the spring shoots, working carefully to minimise compaction of the heavy wet ground. Armed with a hand-fork and a pair of secateurs, I tidied away much of last year’s old herbaceous growth in the long border, though I left less hardy salvias, penstemon, gaura and miscanthus still standing for a month or two longer, in case a sudden cold spell should descend on us still.
The before and after shots don’t quite reflect the difference that a day’s work has made to this border – and I was rather surprised that it took so long to work this fairly modest length of planting, leaving the other borders as yet untouched. It was a great pleasure to be working outside all day, revealing the garden’s subtle activity at close quarters: white buds on the winter honeysuckle about to erupt; shoots of daffodils, crocus and snowdrops nosing above the wet soil; hellebore buds fattening and beginning to colour; the scarlet spidery flowers on our small witch-hazel.
From further away, these low-slung flowers are rather eclipsed by the glowing foliage of the pheasant tail grass, Stipa arundinacea, and stems of Cornus ‘Mid Winter Fire’, but as this slow-growing shrub matures through the coming years they should give more impact. I’d love to add a yellow witch hazel to the garden too, if I can just find a little more space.
Beneath our bench, at the foot of the horse chestnut tree, the magenta flowers of this primrose seem too saturated to be true, far removed from the delicate yellow of its siblings. Yet this primrose has self-sown here, appearing last year with no cultivated polyanthus in the garden in our five-year curation, leaving me pondering whether this colour could naturally spring from such gentle parents, or has been flung here from further afield by wind or birds…
In the front garden last weekend, buds were pushing up on our earliest daffodils, Rijnveld’s Early Sensation – some three weeks behind last year. All week since, I have watched the development of one fat bud, lit only by car headlights at the start or end of my working day, until yesterday’s respite from work gave me the chance to see the newly opened flower in daylight – our first daffodil is in bloom! All along this narrow border and the grass verge outside our front fence, further buds are in various stages of unfurlment.
There has been little opportunity for work in the garden this weekend, but I hope to continue tidying up the remaining vegetation over the weekends ahead – and revelling in the golden cheer of these first daffodils; a delight on grey January days.