Bare Bones

This is now our busiest time of the year, knowing that if we don’t pot up our stock, we’ll have nothing to sell when the season starts, so every effort goes into hard work – half a ton of compost a day. Fortunately, the daylight is now increasing and as we have no electricity at the nursery, we work until it’s too dark to work. That means that every day, we work just that little bit longer.

Despite everything that has to be done, I took time out this weekend, to wander through the gardens. This is the time of year that gets missed by so many gardeners, but it is the time when there is so much ‘promise’. The promise that Spring is just a few weeks away. All over the gardens, bulbs are springing up, the first, snowdrops, are in flower, the daffs are in bud, crocuses are pushing through the soil, not long and all the other bulbs will start to appear.

The buds on all the shrubs are now starting to swell, and it’s now that we have the chance to notice how each shrub is slightly different in the way its bare form works. Take a look at the Lilac, Hoheria, Buddleija, flowering Cornus capitata. Each one different, but that difference will soon be hidden by foliage. Now you can see where so many birds nested last year, and what a joy it is to see that the shrubs we planted a few years ago are now  homes for our bird families.

The perennials that originate in temperate maritime environments are now starting to produce new basal growth. That gives me great encouragement when I see that the Monarda, Phlox and Hemerocalis have survived the darkest part of the winter and will very soon begin another year. Persicaria campanulatifolia is a fantastic 4 foot high perennial with clouds of pale pink flowers from mid-summer through to end of winter, but right now, it’s a neat evergreen, ground-hugging plant with really tidy foliage. Only seen during the summer, and you miss the beauty of its winter habits. Time to prune the roses, although there are a couple of climbing roses that we have purposely not pruned, so they flower right at the very top of one of the hazel hedges. Visitors get a real surprise to see large, rich red flowers 25 feet up in the hedgerows.

Now is the time when we can read the history of some of our plants. We lost a massive bough from an Acer way back in 2008 when a very late snow event in the middle of March took out a big branch. Over the years, the scar has very slowly repaired, and I noticed this weekend, that the wound has finally made a complete repair. A few weeks from now, and it will be hidden by foliage, but I now know why the tree has such an unusual, and quite pleasant overall form.

This weekend, I’ve just moved a number of plants into a poly-tunnel. I want to encourage new growth so I can start taking cuttings early enough to have the new plants in flower this year. So a couple of each variety of Penstemons, Gaura, Perovskia and so many others that we propagate from cuttings. The extra warmth in the poly tunnel will bring them into full growth within the next two or three weeks. The cuttings will be rooted by early March, potted into sales pots by end of April and in flower by June. Left outside, then they wouldn’t begin to put on new growth until March and not be new plants on the sales tables until August.

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed this weekend during my walkabout there are parts of the new gardens that are holding too much surface water, so within the next week or two, I’ll dig more drainage trenches. After they have been left for a few rain events and I know they work, I’ll convert the trenches into French Drains. Just one of the problems of having a two inch topsoil on pure blue clay. If you get the chance, spend a few minutes in your garden this month. You see the bare bones of the garden, the promises and the problems. Mind you, for me, these sort of problems are just opportunities to make improvements.

We had another new visitor to the bird feeders, along with the redpolls, a tree-creeper has started visiting the tree we have our feeders on. Not sure which tree-creeper it is, the two look so similar. Best way to tell is its song. One has an ascending call and the other a descending call. Problem is, if it doesn’t sing, I can’t tell. Never mind, it takes our bird count on the feeders up to 26 species, and even now it’s noticeable that the birds are beginning to pair up. Our woodpeckers have started drumming, and it won’t be long before we’ll have the dawn chorus to wake up to. Then we really will know that Spring has Sprung.

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