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Spring has truly sprung


By kowhai


This year everything seems to be out of kilter, thanks in part to a very late Easter, the dryness of the past couple of months, and the spurt of sunny and pleasantly warm (but not hot) weather. The garden, having more or less survived the ravages of the harsh winter, has put on a spurt of growth and things are coming into flower unexpectedly early. Meanwhile, the faithful cordyline, which grew by about two metres in the 10 years we have been here, fell victim to the winter (along with cordyline all over the place, though not in Brighton, thanks to a milder seaside climate) and I’ve had to cut it down. Although apparently it is likely to grow again from the remaining root, I’d prefer to remove it (fat chance — it’s firmly embedded) to replace it be something different. That is a project now in, shall we say, the early planning stages!

Meanwhile, it’s pleasant to look back on the month to see what we have enjoyed so far, with lots more in the months to come. Early in April we visited nearby Grey’s Court to enjoy the profusion of early spring flowers, including the apple trees and daffodils in blossom.

One of the fine sights there is the white magnolia in the white garden. This year it was performing splendidly, with a great shower of white blossoms set against the old stone walls of the tower. Fortunately it had also been unaffected by the odd late frosts which can wreak havoc to magnolias and camelias.

One of the treats at Greys is provided by the weeping cherry trees which are underplanted with Erythronium. The pair of cherries are matched by a pair of box bushes, and they make a wonderful display, while elsewhere in the grounds, the white hyacinths planted along an arbor demonstrate one way of using these to good effect.

Back in our considerably more modest garden, the fritillaria have been and gone. Must plant lots more this autumn as they look good with hellebore (as pointed out recently by Monty Don).

We’ve also had a good display of potted daffodils, including a small flowering variety called ‘Hawera’, which is really good value as it lasts and lasts. Likewise, a new variety of narcissus, ‘Fragrant Cheer’, truly lived up to its name and lasted for a good four weeks, providing both flowers and a lovely scent. Highly recommended.

It is being a good year for primroses and poppies. Both are among the plants we ‘inherited’ and both happily self seed. The poppies come in two colours, with the yellow being predominant, but the orange being the ‘preferred’ colour. We were told years ago by a knowledgable gardening neighbour to cut off the yellow flowers to prevent them from seeding, but I never do it and probably in time the yellow variety will take over.

Other plants have been encouraged by the spring weather. The hostas, all of which are potted, have pretty well grown while just looking at them! I’ve now completed the great seasonal move around, which requires a lot of back breaking effort, and have shifted several large pots of hostas up onto the top patio so that we can see them, but I haven’t done anything with the hemerocallis, which really need dividing, as recently demonstrated by Carol Klein, something that will have to wait till next year. If they produce flowers to match their foliage, we should be in for an even better year than we enjoyed last summer.

Interestingly, despite the harsh winter, the sophora (or ‘Kowhai’ as we call it in New Zealand) has survived, unlike its fellow antipodean cordyline, and has gone on to produce a good show of flowers. Maybe the fact that it is the sunniest spot in the garden has something to do with it.

Earlier in the season I sowed seeds for a number of annuals in the hope of filling some gaps in the garden. My efforts have had mixed results: the sweet peas were OK, while the cosmos have been really abundant as the picture shows, this being just one ‘tray’ out of several. There are a lot more than I need for the gaps in the border so family and friends will find themselves receiving little gifts of white cosmos seedlings.

We also acquired a hardy geranium ‘espresso’ to replace one which died. This has bronze foliage and a very attractive light lavendar flower. I’ve potted it with a couple of cream nasturtium plants (another of my successful attempts at spring propagation).

I’ve been away a couple of times this month, most recently to a big conference in Brighton. The Regency part of Brighton and Hove is so arranged that, apart from the few public squares and the gardens around the Pavilion, there isn’t much opportunity to garden properly. So, it’s nice to see when people do their best despite challenging circumstances, as this photo shows.

Back at Greys Court, even though they have acres of gardens in which to display plants at their best, someone had a brilliant idea for displaying violas. Throughout the summer, as one lot of violas fades, they are replaced by new plants (that’s where having resources, including volunteer gardeners, undoubtedly helps). Unfortunately, it’s not an idea that I can put into practice in my garden where, for one thing, I don’t have a fine old south facing brick wall on which to mount such a display, but seeing this ‘viola cottage’ always raises a smile as we leave the walled garden at Greys. And now I must get back to my own fenced garden as there are one or two chores I must do before we go out to lunch.

Best wishes to anyone reading this for a flower filled and fruitful summer’s gardening!

More blog posts by kowhai

Previous post: Blossom time

Next post: Foliage and flowers



Hi Kowhai

What an interesting blog and such lovely photos to go with it. It sounds as if everything is growing well in your part of the country. Have a Happy Gardening time.

27 Apr, 2011


Terrific stuff! Those Weeping Cherries are simply magnificent! You have lots of lovely flowers blooming at your more modest garden and that Geranium 'Espresso' is a delightful little thing. The last two photos were very interesting. I do like that idea of displaying potted Violas.

27 Apr, 2011


lovely blog ~ thanks kowhai, i shall put grays court on my list of places to visit ~ the blossom looks tremendous.
i am growing a few seeds to fill the spaces too and its the cosmos that is doing better than any other here!
those little yellow welsh poppies self seed here and are all over the garden ~ they look stronger plants this year too. i still have narcissi out ~ they smell lovely.

27 Apr, 2011

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