Spring Gardening in 2001
Daffodils in the Hen House Border
Spring starts to make its demands four weeks before my October holidays. It starts with the daffodils of course, when I tell myself it's worth having to drive away from home, in order to fully enjoy their welcome at the gate upon returning.
One bulb-planting season I purchased several large bags of dubious mixed daffodils from a specialist farm. The inventive lady gardener had used the concrete mixer to gently tumble the varieties together, an idea that she thought was brilliant. Unfortunately the bulbs were a little moist, and the gentle tumbling became a rather robust smashing. Many bulbs were sliced and mashed, others just came to pieces. It sounded just like the sort of thing I would do, so, being a compulsive rescuer, I paid rather too much for about 1000 of the survivors, and gave them a second chance.
I deliberately planted them thickly around the gate, along the roadside fence, and on the grass bank just before the fork in the driveway. They were 'welcome home' daffodils - to be viewed from a returning car. More than half of them worked, and they still always surprise me as I drive in - they look so beautiful.
Spring lambs arrive two or three weeks before the October holidays. Usually this is an easy time - the weather is settled, warm in the day time, and the ewes are safe in the front paddock, sheltered from the southerly wind and rain. The initial wonder and worry usually fades quickly, and lambing turns into a count-the-twins exercise. The lamb creches start up in the warm sunny days, and the crazy bouncing sessions at dusk are a joy to watch. Peeping at the newest wobbly lambs is fun, too, but it's better not to get too close.
The first lambing of the millenium was far from easy, even with our small flock of 12 ewes. It rained continually, and we had a few early losses, unexplained, but causing us to become much more interventionist. Lamb polar fleece suits were sewn up and the newest wobbly lambs were grabbed and dressed. Still the rain continued, and we spent a few sleepless nights listening to the rain and worrying if any new lambs had been born. We got through with only one near disaster, a very feeble lamb who needed a strong dose of glucose.
Honesty is a much loved spring flower in my garden. The purple honesty is so beautiful, and its flowering always takes me by surprise. I can't imagine ever getting tired of its colour (I do, after four or five weeks, and rip it all out!). I grow areas of the white variegated type, and a smaller area of the variegated which has those same purple flowers.
I try to have patches of bluebells and grape hyacinths, and they mean well, but somehow they are never quite as memorable as I expect. It's true that they lack a truly woodland setting - this will certainly be the reason.
Tulips and Daffodils
I'm always apprehensive when the tulips start. I've tried to have sensible healthy clumps of tulips, but only the newly planted ones deliver. Plantings from previous years seem to lose their vigor, and basically don't flower. I can't be bothered to lift them, and so I continue to throw my money away each year. Bright red tulips are my favourites, but I know that too soon they get that wind-shredded look. When that happens I know that the promises of Spring have been and gone.
In some years I've had huge late spring commitments at my work, and unbelievably I've missed the aquilegias. There are many which have self-seeded, or which I've planted, and each year I've been determined to enjoy their progress from new to flopped down. There are some beautiful double blues (a gift from a Maths pupil's mother) over the water race. My favourite variegated ones have been rather puny, and the top of the JAM garden is full of strange pinky maroon ones
Spring Holidays in the Garden
The October holidays I have as a teacher seem to be too late for any thoughts of a garden spring clean. It's a rather frenetic time, when I'm looking ahead, poking in new plants, trying to see if I've left enough room, trying to visualise colour schemes, wondering how big things will grow, and so on. In my desperation to make every moment of my free time count I guess I miss a lot of end-of-spring things. I never know when spring officially ends, anyway.
Apple Tree Border in Spring
My rhododendrons are starting to be a good spring experience. They all arrived anonymously, and guessing what colour each was going to be was a lot of fun. I do wonder just how big they'll all eventually get, as some have the hugest flowers, quite out of proportion with their runty little bodies. I hope that these become giants. I did acquire two free Whitney's Apricots, a type that I have drooled over at a garden visit.
Later in spring the sheep get shorn and the lambs get tailed and eartagged - somehow their cuteness factor diminishes the more they grow. The ex-concrete mixer daffodils start their long untidy dying, and I look impatiently at the flopping annoying foliage, wondering if I have the patience to dig out clumpfulls and hide them behind the glass-house out of sight. I don't, of course, but I can dream! I peer at the tulip stalks, and wonder if I'll ever see the new frilly purple ones again. Then the foxgloves suddenly start to flower, and they dominate all the borders.
I think that summer should be arriving soon, but that's another seasonal story...