After the Rain
Back from a (rainy) break in Portugal and it has finally stopped raining in southern England. The reservoirs have filled up and the drought that threatened a hosepipe ban and water rationing over the summer is over. Hooray.
In our absence, our garden has gone dippy, doolally crazy. Utterly insane numbers of plants have flowered, some of which in all honesty we did not even know we had.
We are renting a house with an old cottage-style garden while the new build house we want to live in remains a muddy hole in the ground. The current rental was owned by an elderly lady, and I know from the landlord she loved her flowers but had not been able to tend the garden for a while. The house had lain empty for a long time but we took on the place realising that there was a work out there to clear, prune, trim, dig out and discard (that deadly nightshade just had to go) and plain cut down. But, this is a rental and we are only here temporarily, and there is only so much you can do…
I did spend a few weekends last autumn/winter out there with long loppers, secateurs, hand forks and a hacksaw. Mostly I was being savage and brutal. It was so overgrown and crowded that I had to take a very pragmatic view—the plant life (some bare shrubbery unidentifiable) just had to take their chances, even if they really would have preferred a spring spruce up or a light autumn prune, they were all wrestled and manhandled by me almost to the ground. It really wasn’t pretty and left us with a bit of grey wasteland over winter.
And yet…the riches Spring has brought to our garden take my breath away.
First, the Apple Blossom. We have 3 apple trees, old varieties and utterly sweet and delicious–they were fruiting when we moved in last autumn–the best apple you never remember eating:
The gigantic oversized snowdrops that appeared in early March drooped to the ground after a few days, and the daffodils and narcissi in April mostly came up “blind”, so I was not too hopeful for much of anything else really. And then the rain stopped, the sun came out and our garden is filled with clouds of naturalised Columbine (Aquilegia)—the state flower of Colorado. With great big clover like leaves and long delicate stems swaying their fairy-light bells in the breeze, there are whites, creams, pale and deep pinks, strong royal purples and pale blues, creating a haze of pastel magic. Over time I think the plants have all reverted and intermingled—they were maybe all the white or cream to begin with. These are sometimes called Granny’s Bonnet.
A lone golden poppy (the California state flower) unwrapped itself this morning:
Polygonatum multiflorum, or Soloman’s Seal is another cottage garden favourite that has turned up in ours, nestling under the pergola:
With a white Clematis rambling over the top:
While the bees buzz about at ground level, darting into the the pretty pink and blue flowers of the horribly named Lungwort (pulmonaria officinalis):
The Camellia is nearly done flowering, but just to capture its magic for this season:
Green Alkanet (pentaglottis sempervirens) is muscling in to the borders too, the deep bank that runs along the fence is a fantastic splash of vivid blue. I am really not fond of this weed. Its big ugly leaves shed irritating hairs when you pull it up—wear gloves and cover your mouth as it can irritate your throat too. It also stinks when cut or pulled, and can regenerate from a tiny bit of root left. In its favour apparently you can use the roots as a red dye but frankly, I would have to be desperate in some way to cultivate this.
And to Bluebells, there are all sorts of hybrids and natives in this garden, and I know enough not to touch them as the natives are highly protected in the UK. There are even ones that are lilac coloured, which a brief internet search says is not so odd, but odd enough for people to be taking pix and talking about:
Bundles of Herb Robert abound in this garden with their pretty five-petal pink flowers and red stems:
And last but not forgotten, Forget-Me-Nots push up everywhere:
So, a spring garden. Revives the soul, does it not?