First Notes of Spring



Today was a day of firsts. It was the first time I’d spent a whole day in the garden since autumn; the first opportunity to slide the greenhouse door open and leave it there until sunset; and the first time I had stopped to listen to our resident blackbird singing his proud heart out. 

My list of jobs for the weekend was extensive. If it had rained, I’d have been sanding window frames, waxing doors, and tidying the cupboard under the stairs (otherwise known as the cupboard of doom). As it was, the sun shone from dawn until dusk on both days and those jobs were saved for a rainy day. I can’t say I am too sorry about that. The garden room did need some attention, principally because it still had a 9ft Christmas tree in it. This was no hardship. Where the tree once stood, blocking the doorway to an unfinished bathroom, there is now a temporary partition, and a desk at which I can write among my precious plants. All I need now is a magic box to boost my wi-fi, which can’t quite reach this distant corner of the house.


The garden room, February 2017


In our original garden the fig needed its annual prune. This thorough removal of last year’s growth does mean that we rarely get fruit, but it’s the leaves I am really after. I also decided it was time to cut Melianthus major back to ground level. Some of the stems had reached 12ft tall and had started to look unsightly. I will have to forego the sword-like flower spikes for a year in order to establish a stockier plant. Whilst pruning I discovered the heavily serrated leaves were infested with greenfly, explaining why everything underneath was covered in black, sooty stickiness.


The Watch House garden, February 2017


Having thinned the remaining melianthus shoots I took my secateurs to Trachelospermum jasminoides. This lovely, evergreen climber has become so dense and rampant that in spreading over a neighbour’s roof it has mounded up another 2ft. In turn this has turned the pathway to the front door into a deep, green ravine. Beneath the trachelospermum is one of nature’s curiosities, Asarum splendens. This shade loving plant has leaves that look like a frog’s back and ground-hugging flowers that almost defy description. As I’m lost for words, here’s a picture:


Asarum splendens, The Watch House, February 2017


Those dark centres make the flowers look carnivorous, or perhaps they are the entrance to some sinister underground world? They are harmless enough, even when one gets close up, on one’s hands and knees.

‘Next door’ (I shall have to think of a better name for the new garden than that), I was very happy to see that three pots of Iris ‘Shelia Ann Germaney’ were coming into bloom. These were some of the lucky few bulbs I planted at the correct time, and they have rewarded me accordingly.


Iris 'Sheila Ann Germaney', The Watch House, February 2017


Having spied a Dutch grower still selling tulip bulbs at last week’s RHS show, I decided I would try planting yet more of the bulbs I’ve been storing because I didn’t have time to deal with them during the building project. The tulips (T. ‘Gluck’ and T. ‘Ivory Floridale’) were still plump and healthy, so in they went, with a covering of primroses just in case they are a ‘no show’. I won’t be enjoying many early flowers this year, although Fritillaria persica seems to be pushing up at a tremendous rate of knots. The number of pots planted with bulbs is now slightly out of control, so I think I will stop there and see what I get.


The Watch House garden, daffodils and primroses, February 2017


Next weekend we have visitors so I shall spend Saturday morning sowing lettuce and tomatoes and going through the seed drawers to see what else I fancy. As of last weekend my seeds, string, plant labels and catalogues have been stashed in a Tudor architect’s desk. I cannot be sure if that was the desk’s intended function, but latterly that’s how it has been used. The lid of the desk makes an excellent lectern for a special book, in this case The Green Florilegium, a rare 17th-century album of floral illustrations. Mine is a reproduction, but the original would be have been created when the desk, one of Him Indoors’ family heirlooms, was still considered a new piece of furniture. I enjoy turning the florilegium’s pages each weekend to reveal flowers that might be blooming somewhere, even if not in my own garden.


The Green Florilegium and seeds, The Watch House, February 2017


Should you not have a blackbird in your garden to serenade you at dusk, please enjoy a few special notes from mine.

Wishing you a great week ahead. TFG.