Easter Excess

Unlike our London garden, which is having an unscheduled green moment, our coastal garden is a riot of colour this Easter. For the first time this year I feel that everything is coming good, the investment in all that arduous autumn bulb planting finally paying dividends. A mild winter and even milder start to spring has ensured that plants normally battered and bruised by the cold have barely stopped growing for twelve months. Agapanthus africanus (in the background below) and Zantedeschia aethiopica are rudely luxuriant, whilst tender plants such as Melianthus major and Echium pininana are already coming into flower. No such luck with Beschorneria yuccoides, which is apparently biding its time, saving its phallic flower stems for a more appropriate occasion.

The Watch House, Easter 2014

The backdrop to this barnstorming floral bonanza is a seven year old Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ which, despite being stripped of its leaves during the winter storms, is now plastered in posies of custard yellow flowers. They carry a light aroma, but it’s nothing to write home about. Last year we saw no blooms until late May / early June but, happily, this year we can celebrate Easter surrounded by these pretty, fleeting flowers.

Rosa banksiae 'Lutea', April 2014

Much of the colour in the garden is thanks to tulips, all planted in pots and arranged carefully around the terrace to maintain a succession of blooms. A new discovery for me this season is T. ‘Exotic Emperor’, a Fosteriana type which emerges early and lasts for weeks. Plump buds were in evidence at the end of March and the petals are only just starting to drop now. They leave behind curiously contorted seed heads which are almost as enthralling as the flowers. I’d plant T. ‘Exotic Emperor’ again alongside late daffodils, emerging ferns or other white tulips, but the combination of yellow, green and white ensures it looks fabulous with just about anything.

Tulipa 'Exotic Emperor', April 2014

Another tulip I would not be without is T. ‘White Triumphator’. This is one of the most regal tulips; tall, statuesque and purest white. The flower stems are strong and upright, making it ideal for the back of the border or to cover for earlier, shorter varieties. T. ‘White Triumphator’ has been around since the 1940s and was an essential part of the original white gardens at Sissinghurst and Hidcote. I plant the bulbs, ten to a large black plastic pot, in October and keep them as back-up for any gaps that emerge in spring. Should gaps not emerge, they make a superb cut flower, so much more elegant than anything that’s available in the shops.

Tulipa 'White Triumphator', April 2014

Quite by accident, as I rescued them from the bargain bin at our local garden centre, I have several pots of cheerful, white and yellow, highly scented violas. They are brilliant to have around for their profuse flowers and wonderful sweet fragrance. I find them very therapeutic to deadhead when I should be attending to more important tasks.

Yellow and white violas, April 2014

I shall leave you, on this Easter Saturday evening, with my favourite of all spring bulbs Fritillaria imperialis ‘William Rex’. He’s not grown as tall this year (it surely can’t be for lack of water?) but the baby snails, which are rife this spring, are finding every part of him utterly delectable. If it’s not lily beetle it’s snails, I can’t win! Between wafts of scent coming from the violas I catch the odd whiff of old William. It’s a foxy aroma, but it certainly keeps the neighbours pesky cats at arms length.

I hope the Easter bunny is generous when he visits you in the morning. In the meantime I’ll wish you a very Happy Easter – may your garden grow bountifully!

Fritillaria 'William Rex', The Watch House, April 2014