I’ve no doubt many of us are feeling the loss of precious buds this week as temperatures dipped unseasonably below freezing. It’s that funny time of year that keeps us gardeners on our toes, but how dull would it be if our climate were ploddingly predictable?

The British climate can seem cruel at times but is, on balance, benign.  It allows us to grow such a huge range of  plants.  I’d trade the odd lost bud for that versatility of climate any day.

Magnolia decimatedMagnolia damaged by frost

My magnolia soulangeana is still quite a small specimen and is lacking the venerable shapes that come with age.  However, it was smothered in fat pinky white buds last week.  I couldn’t wait to see it in full bloom but temperatures of -3 overnight on Tuesday turned them all to brown mush.  There’s always next year…

Here’s a view of it from the house.  You can see the orchard on the level below the yew hedge and over to the rolling hills beyond.

Weird wisteria goings onFrost damaged wisteria bud

Wisteria buds, which were fattening slowly, have also been frost affected but the pattern of damage is puzzling.  The bud at the top in this picture is failing – it is limp and soft.  However, the bud below is still firm and has a glossy sheen.  Why is one seemingly alright whereas the other is soon to drop to the floor?Frost damaged wisteria bud

I thought it might be an orientation thing until I found the two buds in the picture above, side by side, one still fine and one a gonner.  Is it maybe a size thing with the slightly fatter buds better able to withstand the frost?  Or is this not frost damage at all and just a normal level of bud failure that I haven’t noticed before?

Pulsatilla vulgaris

Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Pinwheel Violet'

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Pinwheel Violet’

Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Rubra'

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Rubra’

Whilst I regret the frost damage, many more plants have shrugged off the cold.  Looking fabulous this week are the pulsatillas in the rock garden.  These add splashes of colour worthy of an artist’s paintbox.  Both those pictured are varieties which are very robust and garden worthy.

Dwarf bearded IrisDwarf bearded iris

These came to my possession via my local Alpine Garden Society group who had a competition for their show two years ago.  It didn’t do at all well for me in a pot for the competition but set free in the rockery it’s covered in fat buds.  They are a lovely rich purple colour and surprisingly popular with bees.  Sadly I can’t find a record of its name.

Pond cleanCleaning a pond

This week I repotted the marginals around the outside of my pond and then I donned some new waders to clean out dead leaves and crud.  I also checked the potted waterlilies, which look fine and are starting to sprout.

I put the pond muck on a tarpaulin to one side so that little beasties could crawl back into the water.  It was alive with dragonfly larvae.  Despite the outfit, I still got wet.  The pond is so deep that reaching to the bottom flooded the gloves and my lovely wooly jumper got soggy.

Cleaning a pond

Frogs continue to snub the pond despite the wonderful froggy staircase I built for them to climb in and out.  Maybe next year…

Circular pond

The pond last summer.

A groaning greenhouseGreenhouse in spring

I’m sure any readers with a greenhouse are experiencing a glasshouse crush in which plants cannot practice social distancing.  I’ve usually moved many more plants into the cold frames by now, and indeed many of the larger frost tender plants have been dragged out by now too.

Epiphyllum cuttings

Epiphyllum cuttings

It hasn’t stopped me receiving new plants though, as many plants ordered in the depths of winter have started to arrive.  This week, some nice new Eucomis specimens and Hedychiums arrived from Avon bulbs.  I’d forgotten I’d ordered them.

Also arriving this week were some lovely new Epiphyllum cuttings bought on Ebay.  These are flowering cacti that I’m keen to grow more of and yet I couldn’t find many suppliers with stock.

I stumbled across a seller on Ebay with great reviews and bid successfully for three of them – one pink, one yellow and one orange.  They came with very good cultivation notes, were safely packaged and are in great condition.

I was always wary of buying plants on Ebay but through my snowdrop sales research I have realised that many sellers are simply excellent amateur growers or micro nurseries.  They’re cottage industries using the auction site to great effect.

These cuttings won’t flower this year of course but maybe next year.  For those unfamiliar with Epiphyllums, here are some photographs of another in my collection from last year.

Epiphyllum crenatum

Epiphyllum crenatum

Epiphyllum crenatum

Epiphyllum crenatum

This seasonal diary is part of a weekly link-up of garden bloggers from around the world, called Six on Saturday.  For more information and links to other blogs crammed with gardening activity, check the blog of host The Propagator.