Spring is in full throttle, and I’m enjoying our under-storey planting.
Primroses flourish here, spreading gently through any spaces in the borders – and into the lawn. While they colonise both the long border and the field border with happy splashes of sunshine, there are also longer ribbons of them threaded through the latter, one streaming past the foot of our white-stemmed birch.
Their flowers are such a gentle colour, almost a non-colour, the yellow so soft that it all but washes out beneath the sun; yet in the cool grey light of dawn or twilight they really light up the garden, seeming to glow from within. They self-seed here indiscriminately, sometimes rather inconsiderately, though this peony doesn’t seem perturbed, pushing up its elegant red-fingered shoots regardless of this intruder.
The lesser celandine also pops up through our garden, though fortunately not quite as prolific in their favour as the primroses. For many gardeners, lesser celandines are perceived as weeds, yet they are largely inoffensive, as long as you don’t attempt to dig them out – whereupon they fight back by multiplying quickly from any fragments left behind. In fact I rather enjoy their sunny spring flowers, and they die down with no fuss by early summer. Some weeks ago, I picked up a trio of their striking dark-leaved cousin, Ficaria verna ‘Brazen Hussy’, at rock-bottom prices as their flowers began to fade and they joined the reduced-to-clear ranks outside a smart supermarket. At the next opportunity I planted them out into bare spaces in these two main borders: as I plunged one at the feet of the black elder, Sambucus nigra ‘Eve’, I rather sadly noted that there was no sign of the Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ that I planted nearby the previous spring, the neighbouring stump of Matteuccia struthiopteris showed no signs of life, and the foliage of Epimedium × perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten‘ looked badly scorched.
A short while later, it struck me that as I prodded around for the missing-presumed-dead Erythronium, I hadn’t noticed any sign of the lovely clear yellow hellebore that I had planted somewhere nearby last spring, treating myself with some garden vouchers received the previous Christmas. In the absence of any detailed garden notes (ahem, I know, I should know better…) I checked my posts on these pages to confirm that I had indeed planted it beneath the black elder. Closer inspection on my next foray into the garden revealed one lone dead leaf emerging sadly from the ground. Unsure whether to be relieved at finding the site of the plant or sad at its sorry state, I cleared the area, gently removed the decaying leaf and added a copper slug-ring from the greenhouse to prevent any late emerging growth from being devoured.
I was rewarded on my next visit by the sight of these vivid green shoots beginning to uncurl within the slug barrier. No glorious yellow flowers from this plant this year, but at least it is still alive; perhaps it simply needed a year’s rest after being forced into flower for the garden centre last spring? My fingers are firmly crossed for flowers next year.
The daphne bought at the same time has also been looking rather bare, but one or two shoots have appeared in the past week or two, so perhaps there is hope for it yet also!
I was also happily surprised on my return visit to see strong growth from the Erythronium had emerged between the celandine and the Epimedium – though it turns out the trio are planted rather more closely than I had intended, a narrow shave indeed! And while the leaves of the Epimedium are frazzled to a crisp brown (I suspect by recent gale-force winds) two stems bedecked with golden flowers have erupted from them nonetheless (one of which is captured below rather blurrily).
And close inspection of my fern stump this week reveals the first glimpse of new growth emerging at its heart, hurrah!
There are always a few losses at this time of year; a scattering of favourite perennials that turn out to be short-lived or succumb to winter wet, but the safe return of those we fear perished is one of the great joys of spring gardening.