In an uncertain year with more downs than ups, the good old British weather has been very up and down too. As a result, my dahlias are only just sprouting out of the ground and the recent wet spell has summoned slugs which have munched some down to stubs!! Suffice to say, I feel a bit flummoxed and behind. My autumn-sown annuals all damped off and then the spring-sown replacements have been incredibly slow growing. My summer flowers are about 2-3 weeks behind compared to last year.
On a more positive note, my self-sown Nigella have been plentiful and for such an easy to grow annual, they make a wonderful cut flower, complete with their own feathery foliage. The roses are in full flow - we have a wonderful small-flowered rambler called 'Open Arms' growing over an arch and numerous roses in the hedge. The Alchemilla mollis, poppies and perennial wallflower are swarming with bees and the first sweet peas and cornflowers are just unfurling. I have planted out stocks, statice, cosmos and Chinese asters, hoping for flowers in July.
We had a lovely display of foxgloves. I love the peachy (apricotty?) tones of Sutton's Apricot. If you harvest the main flower spike, you will get smaller, more delicate flowers on side branches a few weeks later. They are displayed below with sweet rocket, Nigella, oxeye daisies and Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus which have naturalised in our mixed border.
Early each year, I like to look back at the flowers that I grew last growing season. The winter months are an ideal time to reflect as there's not a lot to do out there in the bleak, muddy, occasionally snowy, cold, wintery weather - can you tell that I am not a fan of winter?
It's mid-February and I am itching to get sowing and growing, but regrettably, it's not quite time to start sowing this year's batch of spring-sown annuals. If you wait until early March, when the days are drawing out, the seedlings won't have to strain to find the light. This will stop them getting all leggy and ungainly.
I have taken the time to look back at all the flowers I picked from the cutting garden and allotment last year - from January (snowdrops and cyclamen) all the way through to December (chrysanthemums).
This serves primarily as a way to cheer me up and show me that in a few weeks time I will be picking tulips and early-flowering perennials and then the flowers will just keep on coming. I can also remind myself which flowers I particularly liked, which flowers looked good and lasted well in the vase and which ones were best suited to pressing and drying.
Here is my photo record of the flowers that I grew in 2020 - which is your favourite?
We've had a very mild winter so far here in Norfolk and every day that I venture into the garden in the morning, cup of tea in hand, I notice a few more signs of spring.
The cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) is one of the first hedging plants to flower and the blossom is a pretty addition to the hedge and to a vase to bring into the house. The first tiny blue Scilla flowers are emerging from the soil. They are unusual in that the flowers emerge from the bare soil before the leaves do.
The pale yellow primroses, usually a herald of spring, have actually been flowering away merrily since about November. I have a few as edging plants in the cutting beds as they don't take up a lot of space and the flowers are useful in tiny spring arrangements, lasting really well as a cut flower.
Last year, I planted some Hellebores in the dahlia bed, figuring that as they enjoy a certain amount of shade, they wouldn't be too affected by being shaded out by the towering dahlias during the hot summer months. Once the dahlias are cut down after the first frosts, the Hellebores gain access to some weaker sunshine during the winter and spring. It's worked really well and they are all blooming away happily. They really help to create vibrancy and life in the cutting beds during these winter months. I now have 14 different varieties in the garden and couldn't resist purchasing a few more on a recent shopping expedition to try the same idea up at our allotment plot. I cut some, leave some to brighten up the garden and press some of the beautiful flower heads for picture and card making.
I'm slowly adding to the clumps of snowdrops in the garden borders. These beautiful dainty flowers are a classic winter flower and there are a staggering number of varieties of snowdrops to grow. Mine are the common Galanthus nivalis supplemented by some double-flowered 'Flore Pleno' and the tall 'Elwesii'. I have invested in a November-flowering variety called 'Remember Remember' which I hope will clump up and justify the small fortune that I paid for a single bulb. I often pick just a few snowdrop flowers along with a few stems of colourful Cyclamen coum for miniature displays.
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