Strap yourselves in everybody – get ready for warp speed spring.  After weeks of snow, cold, perma-cloud and rain, Winter has departed and Spring has raced in quicker than any of us gardeners can really cope with.

So much has been happening in our gardens this week and I’m keeping a few things up my sleeve for next week, including – wait for it – new greenhouse news!

Pretty Pieris

New leaves of Pieris -emerging pink

New leaves of Pieris -emerging pink

I’m not usually a fan of this shrub.  I’m not too keen on the composite flower shape, or the leaves for that matter.  Today though the new leaves really caught my eye.  With the sun shining on them they looked gorgeous.  I can’t find a way to describe the pink except to say if a child picks a pink felt tip – it’s invariably this colour.

This week I was contacted on Twitter by a beginner gardener asking me to identify a shrub and it was a Pieris.  I was delighted to offer some cultivation advice.  One of the reasons I started garden blogging is to inspire new gardeners so I was tickled pink to be able to help.

Tulips Vs Daffodils

Pink and orange tulips

Gorgeous pink and orange tulips with a faded, antique look

This week there have been lots of beautiful tulips appearing around the country.  I still only have three types in flower but by next week I expect they’ll all be out.  I still have lots of amazing daffodils in the garden, including the lovely scented, multi-headed types, just opened in the last two days.

I was tempted to share more daffodils with you all, but instead I plumped for this beautiful tulip.  I wish I knew it’s name, but I planted some in a pot three years ago, before the thought of blogging occurred to me, and therefore before it really mattered.

I think hot orange and pink are a cracking combination but there’s something subtle and almost antique about the colouring of this tulip.  It’s almost as if they’ve been through a wash and leached a bit of colour.  Delightful.


Aubretia in wall

Aubretia – this one’s clumped up nicely after a couple of years

My lawn is edged on one side by a lovely wall, built when the garden was laid out in Edwardian times.  We live on a hill, and many of the gardens are therefore sloping – but not ours.  In the days before the First World War, when labour was cheap, manpower was deployed in my garden to create wide terraces.  The result is a lovely flat lawn and a beautiful retaining wall.

What thrills me most about this wall, is that is was constructed complete with little planting holes, dotted randomly along it’s whole length.  I love this attention to detail.

Sadly, when we first moved in there weren’t many plants growing from these purpose made plant pockets but I have tried to establish some Aubretia. It’s a fiddly business trying to plant in a vertical wall and usually involves creating plugs with stones in an attempt to stop the soil washing away when watering.  This year I’m thinking of planting in coir pots and posting them into the hole to try and keep the plant in place whilst they establish.

Magnolia Kobus

Magnolia Kobus

Magnolia Kobus – simple, pure white and enchanting

This tree is fairly new to may garden, and has been planted as part of the new area around my greenhouse.  It was an expensive tree but I needed an instant impact specimen and my family had a lovely time choosing it at Majestic Tree Nursery in St. Albans.

I chose it for it’s shape rather than it’s flower.  If you are in the market for a largish tree, I would recommend shopping in winter so you can make a good selection based on structure and shape.

Whilst I knew this was an all white variety with fairly small flowers I wasn’t prepared for quite how enchanting the flower would be.  Only half of the flowers are open at the moment but I know it will be a favourite tree to photograph this coming week.

Shade lovers

Delicate orange flowers of Epimedium

Delicate orange flowers of Epimedium

I have invested in some new plants this week, and most of them are shade lovers.  Last Sunday I visited a fantastic garden in Amersham, open as part of the NGS Open Garden Scheme.

The garden is called Rivendell and I have written up a short piece describing it’s delights.  The planting is very clever as there are layers of spring flowers, perfectly proportioned and hiding the emerging summer perennials below.

Seeing the Epimediums and creative planting in shadier parts of Rivendell’s garden made me think about a shady stretch alongside a path in mine. We have recently cut back some large shrubs here and it has opened up the area for better planting.  A shopping trip was needed.

Thursday provided me with the chance of a day out to see a friend and we visited a specialist plant fair in Berkshire.  I bought lots of very interesting shade lovers, including three types of Podyphyllum.

I took the opportunity on Friday to hide from the blazing sun and plant one or two of these in the shade but there’s more to be done and I will share some pictures in future weeks.

Sweet Peas and string

sweet pea seedling on string

It is easy to twist string around a sweet pea seedling – after which it will grow straight upwards

Building things out of cane and string is something I really enjoy.

I think it comes from having been in the Girls Guides.  Each year at camp my best friend and I would construct elaborate structures out of canes to make our lives more comfortable.  Our best was a double decker wash stand with wash bowl holder above a second tier used for sponge bag storage.

So you can imagine that I love building my sweet pea supports.  For the second year running I have built a run over 10 metres long, to accommodate about 50 plants growing up string cordons.

If you have a narrow strip at the edge of your veg plot or allotment, or maybe even in your garden – I’d recommend this technique.