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.
Well, I'm pretty sure that in my last post I was complaining about the cutting garden having disappeared under 10 cm of snow. We are now experiencing the hottest April weather in 70 years! Not that I am complaining, its just that I (and my milk-bottle legs) am not quite ready for mid-summer temperatures when it feels like spring only arrived a couple of weeks ago.
April sees the first of the tulips in flower where they join the primroses, cowslips, grape hyacinths, fritillaries, drumstick primulas, Euphorbia amygdaloides, Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve', pulsatillas and forget-me-nots. It is so satisfying to see the abundance of spring flowers, knowing that this is just the start. The bluebells, wallflowers, thrifts and foxgloves are following not far behind!
When choosing tulip varieties ensure that you choose some early flowerers (e.g. Exotic Emporer and Showcase), some mid-flowering types (e.g. Negrita and Paul Scherer) and some late flowering varieties (e.g. Angelique and Doll's Minuet). You can then extend the picking season for as long as possible.
Also this month: I am gradually hardening-off my hardy annual seedlings ready for planting out; I'm sowing batches of half-hardy annuals inside on my sunny windowsills; I am sneakily buying some little primulas, saxifrages and pulsatillas to edge some of the cutting beds; I'm pressing forget-me-nots and primroses in my flower presses for more pressed flower pictures and I'm getting ready to host another 'Grow Your Own Cut Flowers' workshop next week.
Forget-me-nots in a pale blue Dartmouth mantle vase. What could be simpler?
Once you have Forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) in the garden, you will never be without them as they are prolific self-seeders. They offer a great source of Spring colour in your garden borders and are versatile in a number of Spring flower arrangements, looking great with Primroses and Anemones.
These simple pale-blue flowers have 5 petals with a yellow eye and appear from April - June above lance-shaped, grey-green leaves. They look good edging pathways or for under-planting Spring flowering bulbs such as Tulips or Daffodils. They will thrive in sun or partial shade and look lovely at the front of a mixed, herbaceous or wildflower border.
There are many stories to explain the name 'Forget-me-not'. Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking by a river. He picked a posy of flowers, but due to the weight of his armor he fell into the river. As he was drowning, he threw the posy to his lady love and shouted "Forget me not." It was often worn by women as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.
If you'd like to grow them in your borders, sow the seed directly where they are to grow in late spring or early summer. The soil should be well prepared and the seed sown thinly into shallow drills set 25 cm apart. When large enough to handle, thin the seedlings to 15cm. Maintain the soil moisture until the seeds have germinated, but avoid excessive waterlogging. Plants will flower in their second year and will self-seed freely. You can weed seedlings out where they are not wanted but you will want to grow lots of them for great arrangements throughout the Spring. I usually clear all spent plants once they are past their best and I still get lots more plants for the following year from the seed they will have produced.
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