Slow Motion

Since the first balmy weekend in March I have watched both our gardens move forward as if in slow motion. Temperatures have remained resolutely low, bringing to a halt the tulips, narcissi and hyacinths that seemed so eager to get going in late February. In the span of two weeks their fat buds and leafy shuttlecocks have edged forward only the tiniest amount. Our London garden, not blessed with much sunshine in winter, has been the slowest to get going, whilst The Watch House, with its special coastal microclimate, has progressed faster. Yet when I look back at what I was blogging about this time last year, it feels like we are a good three weeks behind.

Spring bulbs in particular are acutely sensitive to warmth, or lack of it. A mild spell around now can accelerate everything into bloom at once, whilst a chilly snap quickly puts the show back on ice. This is because early spring plants (described as ‘prevernal’ for those who like their fancy words) are fine-tuned to bloom when pollinating insects are abroad, but before trees, shrubs and perennials shade them out. Spring bulbs are like sprinters: finely tuned, packed with energy-rich carbohydrates and ready to power ahead as soon as nature fires the starting pistol. One can almost feel the muscular bulbs poised on their starting blocks, straining against the roots that hold them back. We’ve had one false start, now they’re ready for the off.

Race leader Narcissus 'Rip Van Winkle' was one of the fastest out of the blocks
Race leader Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ was one of the fastest out of the blocks this year

They may not be distance runners, but spring bulbs put on the show everyone wants to see. The March weather won’t be breaking any records, but it’s been suggested that Easter could be unusually warm. That suits me as I am on holiday for two weeks so will get to be a spectator when the race does eventually get underway. You may even spot me cheering and waving as the daffodils, hyacinths and crown imperials coming roaring past, going for gold, silver and bronze.

How is spring progressing in your garden? Are you out in front or lagging behind like me (ever the long distance runner!)?

Still in the changing room, my bulbs prepare for the off
Still in the changing room, my bulbs prepare for the off

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14 thoughts on “Slow Motion

  1. Dearest FG I am sooooo envious, work has been all encompassing, and I am so far behind with planting my bulbs I will be lucky to have a spring show this year at all!! The changing room shot is stunning – I love it. I makes me feel as if spring is just around the corner (rather than autumn!) Off to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show for us this week – starts tomorrow for 5 days – will send you lots of pics! H

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  2. So you have gardening skills the rest of us can only dream about, two gardens with one in the city and one on the coast, AND you have bulbs blooming. It doesn’t seem fair, but I do love that you share the photos. 🙂 We’re still buried under feet of snow, the pellet stove is roaring as it has been since November, our closest neighbor fed every deer in the county all winter so they are busy eating anything that is above the snow, and it’s going to be a while until we see bare ground. I think I’ll scroll up and gaze at Rip Van Winkle again because that is one gorgeous bloom and here’s the only place I’m going to see a bulb. 🙂

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  3. You’ll find cool weather a blessing once the flowers open, since they will last so much longer. We went from freezing weather to temps in the 70s and 80s so everything is coming on too fast. I’m afraid it will be over before I have time to enjoy.

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  4. I have 2 snowdrops out. Well not even really out, but up and showing colour. Most of the soil is still covered in snow, and it is still very cold here. Tomorrow we are supposed to have freezing rain, and then maybe normal rain, so that may take care of some more of the snow. We are definitely behind some years, but about that same as last year, which was also a very cold slow warm up. Your changing room makes my heart flutter.

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      1. John Innes is the standard soil-based compost mix you get everywhere in the UK – it’s a formula rather than a brand. No. 3 is for mature plants, no. 2 for potting on and no. 1 for seedlings and cuttings. There’s a seed sowing mix too.

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      2. Fascinating! I like to make my own soil that incorporates native dirt from the spot where the plant will go eventually. I got into that when I was making more specific homemade bonsai soils. I feel like a mad scientist. But less mad, and more happy.

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  5. My garden is behind yours, though I’m pleased to see a few of the daffodils I planted last autumn have finally poked their noses above the ground. I hope therefore there might just be a show of decent colour in time for Easter 🙂

    Interesting that you have noticed the difference between this year and last. I had a feeling this was so, going on the temperatures I was blogging about last Feb/March!

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