It seemed like spring would never come, and now we seem to be hurtling headlong into summer. I’ve gone from willing everything to grow, to wishing it would all slow down a bit.
This patch of bulbs is just one tiny part of a 20m long swathe of bulbs that seems to have popped up overnight alongside a busy road in Cheltenham. The verge separates the road from the pedestrian and cycle lanes on the other side, and this delicate spectacle is definitely best enjoyed by those on foot or on bikes. It isn’t brash enough to be appreciated by car drivers whizzing past.
Someone has a put a lot of thought into this planting – it’s fresh, pretty and unusual – and keeps on going (the daffs, now going over, are being succeeded by tulips). The main road is usually my least favourite part of the walk to work, but right now it’s my favourite.
The weekend before the gloriously warm Easter was spent in Devon, on two of the foulest days imaginable. It was so cold, wet and windy that it was a real effort to do anything, and in desperation we turned to the National Trust handbook. Happily, we found that we were near Coleton Fishacre.
I loved it. The house is built in the Arts & Crafts style, with an Art Deco interior, and was the country retreat of the D’Oyly Carte family (Gilbert & Sullivan impresarios). Going around the beautifully proportioned house, you have a real sense of going back in time, and of the fun that the family must have had there – tennis rackets, fishing rods and hammocks are left lying about, and there are elegant cigarette dispensers, cocktail cabinets and record players at every turn. The servants’ rooms and kitchens (complete with an old soda stream, about six foot tall) are on display too, and there’s even a flower arranging room, filled with vases of all kinds, a sink and a work surface – the lady of the house enjoyed arranging flowers from the garden.
There’s a huge dining terrace on the side of the house, which has a window to one side to stop the wind coming in. It continues outside (see above) to keep out the draughts – a nifty idea.
The RHS-accredited garden is filled with rare and exotic plants that thrive in the (usually) mild climate, and spills down a valley towards the sea. Apparently the family used to ask their weekend guests to help with the weeding. It was a too soggy to walk around for long, but it was good to see the magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias in bloom. By the time we left, we had big smiles on our faces – I would love to go back in summer, and explore it more.
I’ve been on the lookout for a shrub for my main border for a while – something multi-stemmed that would give a bit of structure, with spring blossom and autumn colour. I had set my heart on a Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’, but I read said that it needed a sheltered, well-drained spot – and my garden is anything but sheltered, or well drained. Plus, I thought it might get too big. So in the end, I plumped for a Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’.
I’m glad I did. Not only has it brought some welcome early spring colour (and contrasts nicely with the acid-green Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfennii close by, just seen in the background of the pic) but it is proving as tough as old boots. The garden has been battered non-stop by strong south-westerlies that have howled up the valley, but the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ has stood firm, hanging on to every bit of blossom. I guess it’s not surprising that it’s so robust, seeing as it can be found growing on the exposed slopes of Mount Fuji.
Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ also has good autumn colour, and twisted stems in winter. I plan to underplant with early spring bulbs (it’s already looking good with some Cyclamen coum beneath it).
I’m still hankering after the Cercis, though. Apparently they can be grown in pots, so maybe I can squeeze one into the garden that way…
I thought I’d done quite well with my bulbs in pots this year, but after a visit to Great Dixter I’ve realised I should have planted loads more, in lots more pots, to really make an impact. A lesson learned for next year.
Ditto the crocuses that I planted under my apple tree. It took hours, and all I have is a tiny patch of purple. I think a badger may be to blame – there are quite a lot of bare patches where something has dug the ground up. Apparently they like tulips, too, so maybe the the Tulipa clusiana ‘Peppermint Stick’ that I planted to coincide with the apple blossom won’t come up either – eek!