Category: Spring


We’ve had Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and we are now into Lent. I’m still thinking about what to give up. That’s means we’re getting closer to Easter. Easter Sunday is April 1st. It used to be something of a low key celebration restricted to going to church and eating the odd chocolate egg. But of late it’s morphing into a kind of yellow and green Christmas like Hallowe’en is orange Christmas. A celebration of the return of Spring. All very pagan. Commercial businesses have begun to catch onto it and there are now Easter cards and the shops are filling with things to decorate your home. Bents, who always do the most wonderful Christmas displays, have used their skills to do a very pretty Easter display. I took some pictures…

I’m not sure when or how I became interesting in garden. It used to be something that older members of the family did. But sometimes I would help and something of their enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off on me. I love the idea of planting something in the ground or in a pot and a few weeks later you are rewarded with something beautiful or edible. 

I wasn’t able to do much gardening this winter because of my ankle and the garden did look in a sorry state. I had to engage a gardener to do a good tidy up. I’ve now got a blank canvas to work on and I’m full of plans. I’m having a shed delivered on Tuesday. It will be part for gardening and part for sitting in and doing ‘real’ work on nice summer days. I’ve sited it so I can log onto the house wifi. And I’m poring over the Farrow & Ball paint charts to find a suitable colour to paint the interior. Favourite so far is Parma Grey, which is actually a shade of blue. 

I had bought some tulips to plant just before my tumble and they finally made it into their pots in January. I’ve discovered that tulips don’t like our damp soil, they just rot. But they are very happy in pots. I wanted some violas to plant with them but had a specific idea of what colours they should be. Sadly the fashion seems to have changed and my choice isn’t available this year. Even Bents let me down.

Here are the choices I’m looking at as a substitute… 

While I’ve been incapacitated I’ve got out of the habit of taking pictures for my blog. Walking to places can be difficult still. Hopefully I can get back into it. I was over in Northwich this morning and then had to head back to Manchester. I could have come back on the busy M56 but decided to return by the quiet lanes. I wasn’t quite sure where I was but I kept my eye open for signs for Knutsford and eventually found my way home. At one point I went past a place called Feldy Oak Farm. Two things made me stop. The first thing was these two carved figures gauarding the farm gate…

And the second thing was these clumps of  beautiful snowdrops that have fought their way through the tangle of grass to flower. They are one of the first flowers to bloom in an Engkish Spring and they are a welcome sight after a dark winter. They look delicate but they are tough little cookies, being able to survive bitterly cold, frosty nights…

Nothing to do with my trip but I found this picture on TWITTER. Someone has gone to the trouble of doing this picture of future Manchester. Took me a while to work out what I was looking at. Bottom centre is the Central Convention Centre and the roof of the Bridgewater Hall, to the left you can see the Hilton Tower dwarfed by the fantasy skyscrapers. On the extreme right you can just see the tower of the Town Hall, almost invisible against an enormous tower. Some of the city’s most attractive architecture will have been torn down to build it. All a fantasy of course but the likes of English Heritage would have a fit if any of these towers ever made it into the real world in their present positions. Good fun though and a lot of hard work by someone. 

 

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…