A New Look for Spring

Goat Willow (Salix caprea),  Chapel Porth Valley, Cornwall 2012

Yes, The Frustrated Gardener has had a little spring make-over. I hope you like my new look. Please let me know what you think. Tonight I embark on another business trip to India and Asia, but I hope to keeping adding lots of new posts over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, this weekend there was a definite whiff of spring in the air. It was a little milder, without a breeze, but there was an unmistakable smell of warming earth and new life in the air. The daffodils, tulips and alliums are all above ground now and a cheery procession of snowdrops lines the passageway leading to our front door. At last it was time for some proper gardening, rather than just writing about it. More on that in my next post.

For most of the weekend we were shrouded in a thick sea mist whilst the rest of the country enjoyed some sunshine. We decided to walk inland in the hopes of catching some rays and recharging our vitamin D reserves, but to no avail.

Cheering us up in the local park was Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ (this image by Megan Hansen). This close relative of the climbing honeysuckles is equally blessed with fragrance. In the still air it created a cloud of sweet scent which could be picked up several feet away.

Lonicera ร— purpusii

Lonicera x purpusii is a great shrub for small gardens, putting on a show when most other plants are still dormant. It would look beautiful under-planted with early bulbs such as Crocus tommasinianus, which share a similar vulnerable quality, despite flowering at the harshest time of year. This photograph, by Sebastian Wallroth of buds emerging from grass, illustrates how comfortable this Crocus is with naturalising in grass.

Crocus tommasinianus

Rather less elegant to my mind, but a hard worker for small gardens is Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’. Flowering on and off from October right through to Easter this can be an abruptly tall, upright shrub and therefore often seen badly pruned into unnatural shapes, which I loath. Grow it where its natural height will be welcome and with a dark green backdrop to highlight the flowers. During mild spells it is a lovely sight, the small, heavily fragrant blossoms appearing in clusters along the branches. They are quite frost resistant but even if they do get chilled, more will open within a few days.

Finally, featured at the top of this post is Salix caprea, the goat or pussy willow. The catkins won’t be bearing pollen like this quite yet, but what a special moment it is when they do. This photograph was taken last year on a walk down the valley to Chapel Porth, Cornwall, where the mine workings of the 19th and 20th Centuries have given way to vast swaths of purple heath and wind blown trees.

Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn'