Signs of spring

by Pippa Greenwood

Usually, after spending an hour or so in the garden at this time of year, I get a clear sense of how all the plants are doing. This time, though, there were conflicting signals.

DaffodilsI recently undertook a spot of tidying in one of my flowerbeds. Generally I avoid clearing up too early in winter, and I don’t remove too much old growth, as retaining it can limit plant damage during late-winter cold snaps.

Usually, after spending an hour or so outdoors at this time of year, I get a clear sense of seasonal progress, and whether plant growth is early or late. This time, though, there were conflicting signals. Trees and shrubs bore plumper buds than I would have expected in late January, some of the raspberry canes were already in growth and the aphid population in the greenhouse was thriving. But the bulbs seemed further behind than usual. One solitary snowdrop was in bloom, with no sign of its companions, and the daffodils, which often appear early here, were nowhere to be seen.

When they do finally emerge, I’m worried the bulbs will suffer if the freezing temperatures return. So, I’ve been mounding some loose, light wood and bark chippings around the crowns, as a protective measure. This means that I must keep the hens away from the border when they’re roaming free. There is, it would seem, nowhere better to find hen snacks than in carefully mounded mulch.

We might not have experienced the last of the cold weather, but it is heartening to see the sun when it does come out. Tomorrow, anticipating the arrival of spring, I will pay a visit the garden centre. Included on my shopping list will be seed potatoes, which are sold loose, by the kilo, enabling me to buy the exact amount I need, with no wastage. Such activity helps me feel that winter really will come to an end…

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Gardeners' World Web User 26/01/2011 at 19:16

My snowdrops loved being under the snow, Pippa, and are giving a lovely display already. I reckon they are three weeks early. In my woodland garden crocosmia is up about two inches and the bluebells an inch. The cold weather is set to return tomorrow so I shovelled (well,trowelled) some of the autumn leaves as a mulch on them and anything else I felt worried about. The bulbs in the cold frame are at the same stage as the ones outside which were buried under the snow so I'll have to rethink the use of the cold frame if these winters continue, Winter salads perhaps?

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 15:41

I've had the same problem as you, Pippa, my bulbs are only just starting to poke above the soil, even the crocuses, but all of my different clematis cultivars are sprouting away like crazy already, whereas this time last year they were still dormant. This weather's freaky and as a gardener it's hard to predict how it will affect this year's plans for the garden. I enjoy your blog, thanks for writing it!

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 21:06

There is a garden near me with a shrub that is so fragrant in December that it knocks your socks off. A viburnum or a Daphne? I don't know what it is. BUT , this year it only flowered last week - a full three weeks later than usual. But oh it's glorious. Whatever it is, I want a cutting!

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 21:07

This has reassured me in a way, as I was getting slightly anxious about my daffodil bulbs which haven't yet made an appearance. Am so looking forward to seeing them flower.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/01/2011 at 20:58

Down in the Channel Islands the daffodils seem much earlier than usual with most hedgerows displaying them in full bloom. Seed potatoes going in tomorrow (Jersey Royals) and rhubarb unfurling leaves. Feels hopeful despite returning to very cold temps. today.

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