Category: Spring

Almost overnight, one of my favourite plants in our garden has come into flower. It’s the intensely purple/blue flowers of the Iris Siberica. I find the complicated arrangement of the petals, the colours and the details of the patterning beautiful and always look forward to them coming out. The bees were enjoying them as well this morning.

Last Autumn I picked up a couple of boxes of very reasonably priced allium bulbs from ASDA. Alliums are ornamental onions and the bulbs do look like small onions. I didn’t taste one though. I’d forgotten about them but they are just starting to bloom. You get a globe of little purple stars. I’m pleased with them and will get some more this Autumn for next Spring.

It’s been the warmest day of the year so far. My car dashboard recorded 23C (74F) for the first time this year. And it’s been dry, we’ve had so little rain of late that the grass is beginning to brown; something that doesn’t usually happen until July or August if then.

I got home a little early and needed some thinking time so I took myself off for a bit of a walk. I’m lucky to live right on the very edge of the city (but still 30 minutes from the city centre) and within a couple of minutes I’m out in the lanes on the surrounding farmland.

I found some Forget-Me-Nots. These tiny flowers have lilac buds but, as they open, they turn this bright shade of blue with yellow centres. The mythical story about the name is interesting. Two lovers were walking along the banks of the River Danube. The lady saw the flowers. Her boyfriend, while picking her a posy of the flowers, fell into the river. As he was swept away he called ‘Forget me not!’

These flowers with their umbrellas of tiny white flowers are everywhere at the moment along the edges of fields. They are called Cow Parsley because of the leaves. Or Queen Ann’s Lace after the intricacy and delicacy of the flowers. Or, if you like your stories darker, Mother Die, as they are supposed to bring bad luck into your home if you cut some and take them inside.

I found some wild roses. Apart from the one in our garden, these usually come out before the cultivars we have in our parks and gardens. The genes of this simple plant are in all of the complicated ones we like to grow. This one is white, the flower of the County of Yorkshire, but on the wrong side of the border. In spite of roses being the flower of England and very much entwined in our history and culture, they are not natives. They were brought here by the Romans to decorate their gardens. From there they escaped into the wild.

If the weather is nice and we have something to discuss and think about it’s good to get out of the office to do it. We are blessed with an office building set in a park and surrounded by little areas of woodland full of old trees, wildflowers and creatures. The assorted creatures that share our space seem quite happy to do so and are used to people and cars coming and going and show no fear of us and we appreciate them.

This morning, as we wandered over to get a coffee from the park hub, I spotted some Pink Campion in flower, the first of the season. I couldn’t get too close to it as it was surrounded by brambles and nettles. Makes mental note for blackberries for later in the year.

‘Cast ne’er a clout ’till May be out’ is a phrase we have in England. It either means keep your winter clothes on until the end of May or until the May (Hawthorn) blossom is out. It’s out now with great clouds of white blossom and its heady perfume so maybe it’s time to start casting my ‘clouts’. We will see. Don’t hold your breath. The bees were loving these flowers. Later in the year there will be bitter, red berries, called haws, that see the birds through winter. You can make a jelly from them that is supposed to be nice served with cold meats. Do not believe anyone who tells you this. It is vile!

I like to visit these beds of Azalea bushes near the office. They are slow and low growing, covered with tiny dark leaves most of the year. But for a few weeks in May they are smothered with these brilliant pink and red flowers. We have some azaleas in our gardens in other colours and I think we need more. They are stunning.

Around the lake the wild Yellow Flag Iris are just starting to come out. They like to grow right on the edge of the lake with their roots in water and their heads in the sun. Just a few at the moment but in a few days, with some sunshine, there will be hundreds.

I spotted this mother duck and some ducklings having a chill by the edge of the lake. I nearly missed them as their colours were camouflaged with the soil and the surrounding plants. They were quite happy for me to get close to take the pictures. They are used to people and have no fear of us.

I always give the Canada Geese a wide berth. They are big and move about in groups and look like they could handle themselves in a fight.

On the lawn there was this drift of white Narcissi. I’m not sure why we call the ones that come up in May, Narcissi, while the ones that flower in February, March and April we call daffodils. They are all part of the same family. What we call daffodils tend to be mostly yellow with the big trumpets. Narcissi, like these, tend to have white petals and smaller trumpets, these are a delicate yellow and edged with red as if someone has painted it on. These are the last of the season, once these have finished there will be no more until next year.

I liked these Rhododendrons. They are the bigger cousins of the azaleas. They grow fast and can get out of hand. They were brought from the mountains of China and the like and have found they like the UK. In some parts of the country they have escaped from gardens and have become a real pest, colonising entire mountainsides and crowding out native plants and creatures. These seem to be under control though. I loved how the buds are dark pink but, as they open, they turn pale pink and then white.  

Japanese Acers (Acer Palmatum) are a family of trees that are found in Japan (obviously), Korea, China, Mongolia and eastern Siberia. They are related to the maple family of trees and sycamores that we find in Europe and North America. With green leaves in Spring and summer, they turn brilliantly coloured in the Autumn. 

We like the Japanese Acers because of their colour, the daintiness of the leaves and that they are small and slow growing. They are happy in pots and, fed and watered, they will thrive on a patio, terrace or a balcony. Everyone can find one for even the tiniest garden. They are slow growing so, by the time they become big enough to be a nuisance, you are likely to be beyond worrying. 

I found this one in Chorlton last year. The guy who sells outside the Post Box Café had them. I thought I’d killed it. It got lost, in its pot, under a patch of Montbretia, didn’t get watered and lost all its leaves but it came back this Spring, stronger than before. I will take more care this year.

This one I found at a flower and plant show I went to, last Summer, in Chorley. It was bought from a specialist grower and was very reasonably priced. I loved the leaves and the colour.

Both of them were red so I wanted a green one. I did the rounds of the garden centres and couldn’t find anything the size, or price, I wanted. But, calling in at the DIY shed, B&Q, I found this one for only £4. We can enjoy watching it grow. I’ve put some marigolds in their pots for over summer. 

It looks like it has just rained but I’d been out watering the pots. We’re having a dry patch in the UK at the moment, and (we’re never happy) farmers are struggling to keep crops watered and we gardeners are having problems keeping our gardens green. Another picture of our new duck who doesn’t really need his waterproofs at the moment.

Some pictures of the white Wild Cherry Blossom tree in our garden today. It’s in full bloom, it’s perfume is wonderful and it looks beautiful against the blue of the sky.

Today is May Day and is a bank holiday in the UK. It’s usually the first Monday of May which this year coincides with the first of the month. It’s an ancient celebration in Europe dating back to Roman times and the celebration of Flora, Goddess of Flowers. It probably goes further back than that as it marks the return to the warm, summer days of plenty and growth. It’s connected to fertility and in medieval Europe it was celebrated with all kinds of goings on going on in the fields and forests to ensure fertility, if you catch my drift. With most of us living in cities these days it’s a much tamer festival now.

In communist and socialist countries it’s been taken over as a celebration of the working man. In the UK, we go to garden centres and DIY sheds. 

On Saturday I was over in the village of Culcheth and we spotted a stall being run by the St. Rocco’s Hospice, selling summer bedding plants. They didn’t have a huge choice but they were quite cheap and the profits go to St. Rocco’s so we bought some. We do have a personal connection with the hospice so we like to help. I discovered that they were going to be there again on May Day so we went over to get some more plants.

The roads were very quiet for a Monday with most people having a lie in on an extended weekend. This was good for the duck I found wandering in the middle of the road on the main road into Culcheth. On an ordinary Monday she would have been a gonner. Mr Duck was quacking at her from the roadside while Mrs Duck walked into the traffic. I stopped the car, stopped the oncoming traffic and the cars coming up behind me and then ushered both of them into the field nearby. 

Good deed done for the day, we drove on into Culcheth where they were setting up a May Day village festival. People would come out during the day to enjoy it. My relative who lives there assured me that no goings on would be going on in the fields and woods around the village later on. People would probably have a nice lunch and watch some TV.

We found the St. Rocco’s stall and bought some more plants. 

It looked quite grey in Culcheth and I thought it might rain. But, by early afternoon, it had turned sunny as I finished planting out the summer bedding, including the ASDA doggie planters that I like.

I just thought I’d share some of the Azaleas that are in bloom in our garden. After all the yellow, purple and white of Spring, it’s good to see the vibrant, sherbet colours of Azaleas. They are cousins to Rhododendrons but are more compact so are perfect for small gardens. And they are happy in pots so you can move them around to where you would like them. They are quite slow growing so they don’t get out of hand. Rhododendrons look great for about two weeks but swamp everything else out and all you get for the rest of the year is large, waxy leaves. Nothing will grow under them and they don’t support lots of creatures. Unless you have a garden the size of Chatsworth and an army of gardeners to keep them in order avoid them. Azaleas rock. I must get more.

Nothing to do with Azaleas but I thought I’d share these ‘A’ boards that came my way. I love a good ‘A’ board. Here’s one with food for thought…

And this one is very clever, you have to be in the know to get this one… 

However you mark it, in church or in an overindulgence in chocolate eggs, or just by having a relaxing couple of days with family and friends, have a good Easter. This time last year things were a bit frantic in our home. We have sailed into calmer waters now so I decided to decorate the wooden ducks for the season and fill vases with spring flowers. Enjoy…

We’ve had an unseasonably warm weekend in the UK. It got to 25/78 in Cambridge apparently. While not quite as hot as that in Manchester it did top 21/70 in the city tempting guys out in shorts and women in summer frocks for the first time this year. It’s not going to be as warm this week, as we go back to work, but still pleasant.

The warmth has brought out the blousey, pink cherry blossom all over the city. It’s always a pleasure to see this. I feel quite Japanese in my anticipation of this event. I virtually had to queue with the tourists to take pictures of the cherry blossom around the Cathedral. The blossom is at its peak at the moment. It’s a pity it has no perfume. And I don’t think there’s anything in it for the bees either. Still, it looks wonderful.

Here’s a picture of a corner of Manchester Cathedral in 1942. It was bombed badly by the Luftwaffe just before Chrsitmas 1941. The part you can see is in ruins, so was the rest. It was the second most damaged cathedral in the country after Coventry Cathedral and that was levelled in a particularly vicious raid on that city that eradicated the wooden frames medieval city for ever. A great loss apparently. We are lucky that Manchetser Cathedral survived. The problem was its position, within minutes walk of two of the city’s railway stations, Exchange and Victoria. You can see the ruins of Exchange Station across the river from the cathedral.

I tried to take this picture from the same spot. This is as close as I could get to it. Part of the gardens around the cathedral were cut off. They were putting on an Easter Passion Play and there were fences keeping me out. The passion play hasn’t been without controversy. Someone came up with the idea of giving people a ‘Jesus’ experience by offering to crucify them on the cross used in the play. In the end that didn’t happen. In my picture you can see the cathedral totally restored (the war damaged organ has been replaced with a new one and will be officially heard for the first time this Easter weekend) and Exchange Station has been replaced by glass apartments and offices. 

I spent a pleasant time, this morning, setting up a display of Easter plants at ASDA. It’s only a small display at the moment but will grow as the week goes on and will be joined by Easter bouquets of flowers for people to decorate their homes and give as gifts over the Easter weekend.

I’m not sure how giving flowers and plants remembers the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But Easter is a corruption of the word, Eostre, which was the name given to the pagan Anglo Saxon/Viking celebration of the Spring, when people celebrated the return to life of the Earth. Giving flowers and plants and eggs makes a lot more sense then. I suppose the ancient Christians just tried to graft their Christian traditions onto the pagan festival like they did with Christmas. And we are still following the traditions today in ways that would have been recognised by the ancient pagans. 

ASDA do some nice things though.

I’m not sure how many acres of parkland there are around our offices on the business park where we are located, but it must be a lot. Only three guys look after it but it always looks immaculate. Some of it is little patches of woodland that was here before the offices were built. Some is lawn which is easy to manage on one of those fun sit on mowers. A lot of the planting is the kind that is easy to manage shrubs and plants that need to be pruned annually or bulbs, like the daffodils, that come back year after year. It looks impressive but it is designed to be low maintenance.

But there are a few places where they have planted areas up with bright annuals that need to be replaced every year or two or three times in the season. One area is outside Chadwick House. Chadwick House is one of the original office blocks on the park. I think it dates back to the 60s or even the 50s. It was one of the buildings that was used by the Atomic Energy Corporation. They are still here looking after the country’s atomic energy industry. Their presence has attracted the other hi-tech companies that have moved here. Considering it’s a mid 20th century building, it’s not a bad one.

There’s a flower bed that has been planted up outside it. It’s a sea of purple pansies that really stands out against the green of the rest of the park. There are purple/red cordylines in there as well. We like these, they look tropical but are actually from the warmer parts of New Zealand. That can be a problem as, if we have a severe winter, they get killed off. The warmer winters have encouraged us to plant these kinds of plants. Then we have an old fashioned, bitter winter and they bite the dust. We lost all our Agapanthus back in 2010 like that. The cordylines have survived this winter though.

The carpet of purple was spoiled by just one lilac one that crept in.

Outside Chadwick House there are these two statues. I’m not sure what they represent. I think they’ve been there since the building was put up. Maybe something to do with the atomic industry? They have that brutalist look of 1960s architecture. They are also sitting in carpets of bi-coloured, purple and yellow pansies.