The elusive blue

The design of the front garden at AV Acres is based on a colour wheel with the south-west bed devoted to blue through to purple. In keeping with my lily and rose them I’ve planted African lilies, blue lilyturf, Lenten roses for their glaucous foliage, plantain lilies in shades of blue green and rose mallows. There’s still room for more though and after a thwarted day visiting garden centers I’m all out of ideas.

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Ice cold poker

  
Despite March (and now April) having bought heavier frosts than anything seen in winter many of the herbaceous perennials have decided that it is time to wake up. New fresh foliage is emerging in vivid greens and pinks and the whole garden has an energy that you don’t see at any other time of year.

One plant that seems ahead of the rest is this torch lily (red hot poker) with its first flower of the season nestling amongst its leaves. I’m pleased as this is a division of one taken from the garden at Copse Hill and this will be its first full season here at AV Acres. On the other hand I can’t help but worry that another frost will be its downfall.

Neglecting my babies for me green babies

  

 Good Friday brought spring sunshine and, with storm Katy forecast to ruin the ready of the holiday weekend, we decamped to the front garden. I was keen to get the weeds under control but Lily and Rose had other plans…

My daughters are generally very tolerant of their dad’s gardening habit but there is an inevitable conflict between my roles as gardener and as a dad. The gardener wants to make the most of every precious moment with my green babies, the dad with my actual babies.

The compromise was for them to build a camp on the drive and for me to mutter plattidues while staring steadfastly at whatever stubborn weed I was trying to extract at the time. It worked, mostly, but I couldn’t help thinking that I could have got away with it if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids!

March flowers

Although it has been a while since I’ve posted details of what is in flower at the moment, there’s been surprisingly little change through the winter months with the scene still dominated by the Lenten roses.

   
 
In the north-west bed the colours are rich and dark, a deep pink variety contrasting with that is almost black. Both have dark foliage which in turn contrasts with the emerging silvery leaves of self-sown rose campions (the first of which came from Copse Hill 4 years ago this month).

   
   
Yellow/ white and green/ blue remain the theme colours of the south-east and south-west beds. African lilies, rock roses, roses and rose mallows will provide colour through the seasons but for now the demure blooms of the Lenten roses hold their own.

   
 
My planting on the road side of the shelter belt is less restricted. Here grape hyacinth and primroses provide splashes of light under the shrubs and trees. I’m particularly pleased to see the primroses, imported from my sister-in-law’s garden in Norfolk, as I’m hoping they will spread.

  
The last picture is of Easter lilies, rescued from a planter given to Harriet. There are more rescued (forced) bulbs to add this year.

Coffee with a view

   
A neglectful parent, I’ve left Lily and Rose in the care of CBeebies and come back to bed with a pot of coffee. I love the view from our bed with the watery morning sun filtered through the branches of a magnificent sycamore.

This tree, which clearly predates the houses that circle it is both a blessing and a curse. I assume it is the reason we benefit from a beautiful but little-used green in front of our house but it also has spawned hundreds of seedlings which are threatening to dominate the shelter belt screening our garden from the south-east. Those  seedlings have also spread to our garden where the have proved difficult to remove.

  

The shelter belt lies the other side of the drive leading to the neighbours’ houses. I always imagine extending my remit to include caring for this wild garden as it provides the backdrop to my own garden. I should probably make sure my own is in good order before doing so

Is it in the genes

Tonight I drove my maternal grandmother to my mother’s where she’ll be staying for the weekend. My last surviving grandparent, G’ma Pat is a keen gardener too and the conversation inevitably turned to last year’s harvest and our plans for this year.

During the journey we compared notes on what had been successful (cucumbers for her, raspberries for me) and what hadn’t fared so well (rhubarb for either of us). G’ma Pat also filled me in on what had flourished in my Uncles’ gardens (tomatoes) and what had been a disaster (raspberries).

The conversation was only brought to a close when we arrived at my mother’s where I exchanged G’ma Pat for some planters…

An almond for Phyllis

Today would have been my paternal grandmother’s birthday and so is a day I particularly remember her. An avid gardener G’ma Phyl(lis) created a beautiful garden in her last home (the only one I clearly remember) that looked stunning whatever the season.

I would love to plant something to remember G’ma Phyl by and read somewhere of the association between Phyllis and almond trees in Greek mythology. Almond trees however need a sheltered spot, something I’m not sure my garden high in the Kentish downland can offer. The front garden, while south-facing, is often shredded by the prevailing wind and the back garden is a perfect frost pocket with little sun for half the year.

Further research has revealed that filbert, often used in Kent in place of hazelnut, has its origin in Phyllis. Although the fragrant flowers of the almond might seem more appropriate for G’ma Phyl, there is something lovely about linking this local tradition with my memories of a remarkable woman.

As G’ma Phyl used to say, ‘Aren’t we lucky!’

Winter’s last hurrah

Today the garden seemed drab. Gone is the delight at spotting the snowdrops and Lenten roses coming into bloom, replaced with disappointment that the temperature has dropped checking the emerging growth of the herbaceous perennials. Spring is just around the corner and yet it is as if the garden has run out of steam.

Maybe the lesson is to plant the swathes of Easter lilies which brighten the neighbours plots. So far I’ve resisted temptation (with the exception of a small clump on the road side of the trees), considering them too brash to contrast with subdued hues of the Lenten roses. Perhaps some research is required when the bulb catalogues arrive in the autumn to identify some more subtle varieties…

Seed Sorting

February is drawing to a close, and despite success with tomatoes last year, I’m already behind with my seed sowing. I only have a single (unheated) windowsill propagator and two small cold frames so the opportunities for early sowings are very limited so I’m annoyed with myself for losing precious weeks.

Sorting through the seeds I’ve accumulated highlighted that March really marks the beginning of the growin season. Here it seems to be coinciding with the last hurrah of winter but that hasn’t stopped me sorting the packets by month and whether that are to be sown direct or into seed compost. Beds still need to be prepared but I’m ever hopeful or squeezing in an hour or two in the week or over next weekend. 

Today though I had two helpers who sowed basil, runner beans, sweet peas and tomatoes. We’ll all be watching eagerly for signs of germination.