As a result of our long, dry, sunny spell the tulips are earlier and (to my eye at least) their stems are shorter. But they are gradually all making an appearance and seem to have suffered little or no water vole damage over the winter.
After 20 years I am finally enjoying 'China Pink' in my garden again (below). I love it for the shape, colour and persistence of the bulbs (providing flower year after year). None were planted for last spring because I was too late to get my order in for such a popular tulip. 'Queen of the Night' (bottom, left) is a little later to flower - there were bulbs added to bulk up the original plantings in the autumn of 2012 - but 'Sorbet' (bottom right) is already beginning to open. I love their shapes against the colour of bronze fennel foliage and the greys of Nepeta x faasenii and Stachys byzantina.
The Long Border is still bald, bald, bald. Either anything planted in it is too tiny to be visible to the naked eye - or else there's a bare patch. Anticipating this, I bought lily-flowered red (no cultivar name given) and Apeldoorn red tulips in the autumn and combined them with purple tulip 'Attila'. Not to everyone's taste, I'm sure, but it works for me (which is why I adore 'Couleur Cardinal' as well - both colours in the same flower).
The beauty of tulips lies not just in the colour of their flowers, but also in the shape of the buds and their foliage. That's possibly why I prefer the lily-flowered types. The two little square beds on the Mirror Garden are just beginning to flaunt 'West Point' and 'White Triumphator'. This is almost their nicest stage.
I never quite got round to ordering the cheap yellow tulips for my two blue pots, but there's a positive to that. This week I finally installed (after thinking about it for nearly 18 months) two plants of Melianthus major. I'm looking for simple, architectural foliage with a bit of a 'wow' factor up there and I hope the Melianthus will supply it (plus they will be easy to bring indoors for our, supposedly, harsh winters).
Our four trees were planted in March last year and already they are beginning to thrill me with their promise of good things in the years to come.
When we arrived in the garden I was at a loss to think why there were no wild flowers (except for too much creeping buttercup - I declared it the 'Buttercup War'). Right over the wall were lady's smock and sprinklings of various umbellifers in their season, but our land was all rough grasses (creeping and couch). I now think this may have been down to the previous management: it was burnt once a year and hardly ever cut, as far as I know. Since we began to cut and strim, the flowers are gradually leaping the wall.
Having lost over 50 euros in box last year, due to the box blight, I vowed not to buy plants in for the new knot garden. I was taught to make small cuttings in August/September to overwinter in a cold frame. This year I resolved not to be as fussy or take such care over them. The other morning (best time of the day for cuttings, while the stems and foliage are still turgid) I went out and just did it fast. After reading the suggestions of an American gardener on the internet, I inserted them in little bunches in my cold frame. The little handfuls of young cuttings almost look like small box plants themselves. It makes sense - I've always noticed that cuttings root best in company or around the edge of the pot. It must be something to do with good drainage. As usual I didn't bother with hormone rooting powder or gel. They are covered with a little polythene tunnel (although I'm a bit concerned that will see a return of the blight!) and shaded from the hot sun. Hopefully my lack of care will pay dividends so that I can confirm that less really is more.
I've added a new page to my blog all about my vegetable growing exploits. I'm keeping it separate because I suspect not everyone is interested, but also because it pleases my tidy mind. (My garden is often not a reflection of that tidiness!) So click here if you are interested in Vegetables on a slope.
I've also begun the lists of plants that I'm using for a purpose. Here you'll find a link to the plants that have survived our heavy clay and both a wet winter and a very cold one (with temperatures below -15 degrees centigrade in 2012/2013).