Little Green Shoots..

It’s beginning to brighten up here in Darkest Devon. In the morning, the woodburner is lit a little later. In the evening, the nights draw in a little more softly. And in the garden, all is quiet. Except, that is, for one or two stirrings, hidden in amongst last year’s mulch.

Today was a beautiful, cold, early spring day. And I thought, it’s been a long time since I wandered around my garden. These last few months, it hasn’t been easy to negotiate the uneven ground or climb the few steps at the back of the house. I’ve been a little nervous of stepping on black ice or slipping in a puddle. But today, it was sunny and dry – the perfect day for a little meander. And look what I found!

Hellebores - official evidence of spring!

Hellebores – official evidence of spring!

These hellebores grow in clumps on the east side of our house. They suit the shady, moist ground close to the wall of the house, and they’re already nodding their heads in the breeze.

Don't step on these crocuses!

Don’t step on these crocuses!

Irish has got the planting bug. He’s planning a bigger vegetable patch this year, and has been busy over winter, digging chicken poop, and a lime mix into the soil. I think it’s looking pretty good – and the chickens seem to be enjoying all the little grubs that his spade is turning over for them.

Nice Butt!  The chickens clearly agree..

Nice Butt! The chickens clearly agree..

And as I pottered about, I started noticing things I could do – little things, that wouldn’t hurt my sore hips. I thought to myself, ‘I could just cut back the old foliage those ferns so that the new shoots get some sun’. Or ‘Why don’t I quickly pick out all the dead grass on that bank that I couldn’t manage in the autumn?’. And I began, slowly, gently, a little bit painfully, to pick up my old hobby of gardening, the hobby I used to love before the PAO. And I realised how much I missed it – the fresh air, the birdsong, the turning things over. And underneath the old bracken and dead fern leaves, I found the best reward of all:

The best reason for gardening in February EVER.  Fact.

The best reason for gardening in February EVER. Fact.

A little patch of snowdrops that hadn’t existed at all last year! I may have been absent from my garden for the last six months, but it seems to be just waiting for me to return to it. And I can’t wait to get started.

Colour Scheme? What Colour Scheme?

I am a bit of a gardening whore.  That is, I find it hard to resist temptation and buy plants without thinking about where they will go in my garden, and whether they will ‘fit’.  Which means that when it comes to colour schemes, my garden is a little bit ‘eccentric’.

A good example is this red rose next to this pinky-lilac poppy – especially clash-ful against the pale yellow walls of our house.  I don’t think I’d win any Chelsea medals for this combo!

Pink, red and yellow. I’m not sure it works, either..

The pink-red-yellow-athon continues in this bed with pink sweet williams and orangey-red poppies, alongside purple monkshood.

Mmm, ‘blended colours’. Maybe not..

When it comes to outdoor colour choices, I have a rather chequered history.  When we moved in 2 years ago our lovely Devon house was painted white.  There are a lot of other white thatched cottages in our village, and we decided we would like something a little sunnier.  So we chose a gorgeous pale yell0w and were rather shocked when it seemed rather more, erm ‘luminous’ than the powdery lemon we had envisaged.  Eek. We toned it down with this grey on the woodwork, which we were really pleased with.

Luckily, the house has mellowed over time and the creamy yellow now looks gorgeous in the sunshine, and has met with the approval of other villagers (if you live in a village, you will know exactly how important this is).  Even more importantly, it always looks like a happy house, even in the rain – and we have had rather a lot of rain recently!

So the colour choices are not always intended – but I’m fine with that.  After all, the colours in wildflower meadows aren’t exactly planned by anyone.  What matters most, I think, is that the plants are happy growing in the place they’re in. That and the rigorous removal of slugs.

These beds contain the full spectrum of reds and pinks. What brings it all together, I think, is the inclusion of purple in the foxgloves and allium christophii.   More about purple flowers in an upcoming post.

Foxgloves, roses, clematis and allium – just don’t wear them all at once.

To me, cottage gardens are about masses of native species.  I love coming home after work, getting out of my car, and seeing it bloom all around me.  I don’t care if it matches!  The colour doesn’t matter.  It’s the pleasure of growing that counts.

The Wildflower Takeover..

I don’t need to tell you how rainy it’s been for the last, ooh, forever.  This has meant I haven’t been out in the garden as much as I like.  I’m gutted!  All those plans I had for barbecues, picnics, lounging around drinking Pimms and G and Ts…have obviously still gone ahead, but indoor Pimms just isn’t the same, is it? Meh.

So the garden is in a bit of a state and my weeding hasn’t been as dedicated as it might have been.  In fact, I haven’t weeded at all for rather a long time.  And in that time, the garden has been taken over by some truly beautiful wildflowers.  I’m delighted!

Campanula

This campanula looks stunning growing up into the ivy hedge.  It runs all the way along a Devon bank, and has put on a fantastic display this year.  I know lots of people aren’t fond of campanula because it’s really hard to eradicate and so vigorous that it overtakes a lot of other plants.  But to be honest, there’s so much space to cover in our garden, that I’m just glad it’s there to compete with the Ivy!

Welsh Poppies

Welsh Poppies are springing up everywhere too – which is rather intriguing as last year, we didn’t have any at all.  Perhaps the wet weather has really helped them thrive.  I’m pleased because it’s quite difficult to get these dainty little plants to establish, but once they do, they seed themselves quite happily year after year.  Note the foxglove growing in between the rocks in the background – I think this will make a lovely pairing and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together!

Herb Robert or ‘Stinkbob’

Herb Robert is a ‘marmite’ wildflower, I think.  You can recognise it by the dark red stems and musky, herby smell that people either love or hate!  No wonder the nickname for this plant is ‘stink bob’.  I love the smell – it’s fresh and reminds me of walks in the woods.  I bought a couple of tiny plants from Rosemoor Garden, just up the road from us, and planted them into one of our Devon banks.  Since then, the plants have exploded and covered a tremendous amount of ground with frothy leaves and dainty pink flowers.  They look so pretty mixed in with other woodland or hedgerow plants like white or pink campion.

Ferns and Foxgloves make a lovely pairing

This is another lovely pairing that is working well in soggy, shady weather.  Ferns and foxgloves don’t need huge amounts of light and work well in our Devon banks, hedgerows and under trees.  The fronds of the ferns really complement the tall spires of the foxgloves, and together give some great height and interest to borders.

I love how ferns unfurl their fuzzy leaves slowly in springtime, like furry caterpillars – it’s unlike anything else in our garden.

Ferns unfurling their leaves

So despite my fears, it seems that the garden is thriving.  It might even be a good excuse never to weed again!  I’ll definitely be sowing some wildflower seeds and encouraging more native planting in my garden in future.

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