Is that you Spring? I've been waiting for you!
After what felt like an eternal winter, I don’t think I’m alone when I say just how ready I am for spring this year and there are plenty of signs we’re slowly slipping out of dormancy. The bulbs I planted in the autumn have sprouted so will be coming into flower, over the next few weeks. The first little beauties I’m hoping to clock are some crocuses and grape hyacinths that were planted in a bulb lasagne along with some magenta pink tulips. That’s one of those useful gardening cheats if you’re short on space. Just layer up the bulbs with the latest flowering species like tulips at the bottom followed by Muscari then Crocuses on top.
I got a bit giddy with the bulb purchases last autumn so have a nice variety to look forward to. Most are new to me including Tulipa ‘Lasting Love’ a rich burgundy tulip from the triumph group. Did you know that tulips have been bred for centuries and are divided into groups called divisions? There are no less than 15 of these categories which boast hundreds if not thousands of different varieties based on commonalities like flower type and origin. Other tulips I’m excited for are Tulipa ‘Virichic’ a striking two-tone tulip with pink petals and green outer stripes. I treated myself to a mixed bag of tulips and daffs which inlcludes T. 'Carnival de Rio', T. Purple Prince' and T. 'Playgirl' and daffodil variety called Narcissus 'Thalia'. This is a celebration of pinks, peaches, creams and reds and of course the inimitable scent of N. 'Thalia'. I have also planted a dreamy peachy/pink variety called ‘Blushing Lady’ so will be flooding social media with photos the moment they all come into flower.
Other newbies in my collection include daffodils such as Narcissus ‘Ice King’ and N. ‘Sweet Desire’. The former is a blousy, double flowering variety with pale lemon-yellow outer petals complimented by a duskier ruffled yellow centre whereas the latter is an apparently irresistible variety, according to the stockists, and reminds me a little of the centre of a crème egg. Will report back and compare the two in good time. Dotted in amongst some existing perennials, I have added some windflowers Anemone blanda. These are charming little flowers in blues, pinks and whites and have a gentle nodding habit best seen when planted en masse. In fact, if you’re looking for a good example visit the National Botanic Gardens where you will see swathes of them dancing on the breeze near the walled garden. Hopefully we will be able to travel a bit further than 5km by the time they are on display.
Other bulbs which I am particularly looking forward to in my ever-expanding collection are some bulbous Irises. The first, which should have been ready to emerge roughly around now, but I ahem, forgot to plant them until the new year is a dwarf variety called ‘Purple Hill’. These are great when planted together in a single pot showing off their elegantly decorated falls. They grow to a mere 7cm in height, so if you plan to add them to a border make sure they are at the front or in a bare patch in groups of at least ten where they won’t be overshadowed by more vigorous neighbours. Later in the spring, I’m looking forward to welcoming another bulbous iris of the Dutch persuasion as in Iris hollandica. I have Iris ‘Montecito’ and I. ‘Miss Saigon’, just love those names. This type grows up to 50cm in height and has slim, grass-like foliage unlike the sword-shaped, fanned leaves we find in the Germanic irises that grow from plump rhizomes in early summer.
All of these bulbs will be given their time to shine and when the flowers are spent, they will be deadheaded to prevent them producing seed which helps them conserve energy for next years growing season. The foliage will be kept for up to six weeks to enable the bulb to pack in as much sunny goodness as they can before they die back. If you have them planted in a lawn area, it’s best not to mow them until that six-week period has passed. It might be a pain to look at them fading back but trust me it will be worth it for next years display. They can be stored somewhere dry and cool if you have them in pots like me and planted again come autumn. I’ll be using the pots for summer displays of the huge range of seeds I bought from www.seedaholic.com. This is a small business based over in Galway who go the extra mile and give a detailed description of each variety of seed they sell, indicating when and where best to sow them and their care in general.
I have already started a selection of sweet pea including an ‘Heirloom mix’ which boasts no less than ten varieties ranging from purples and navy blues to deep maroons, whites and scarlets. For those of you who took part in the #sweetpeasowalong last year, you may have noted the issues I had with powdery mildew. The patio I had the pots on is a sun trap so with the prolonged sunny spell and poor air circulation, the fungal nuisance took hold and resulted in the eventual demise of all my hard grown plants. This year, I’ll be a bit savvier and spread them around the garden to hopefully avoid another infection. This is the wonder of gardening though, you never stop learning. A former student was asking advice and said they wished they knew as much as I did as they have to look up answers on google and YouTube for tips on how to garden. I still have to do that myself and that’s what I love about this green-fingered discipline, you never stop learning and even if it doesn’t work the first time you have still learned something valuable that you will bring forward in your growing career.
Alongside the sweet pea I have a wonderful mix of dwarf white cosmos, Scabiosa which are great as cut flowers, Nigella for those amazing blooms and even more alluring seed heads. I’ll be throwing my hand at growing some perennials from seed such as Nepeta grandiflora, Echinops ritro and Agastache ‘Astello Indigo’ to give a base coat of purple to our raised beds. I’ve also gotten my hands on some unusual herbs like Za’atar, a more pungent species of Oregano native to the middle east. Along with that, I have some Greek basil, again, another punchier version slightly different to the shop bought variety we would be more familiar with, with lots of tiny, aromatic leaves. Lastly, I treated myself to some lemon balm Melissa officinalis, a zesty herb that gives that delicious citrus tang to teas and salads alike. I started some of the seeds at the weekend and I can’t express what a tonic it was to do something practical that I can watch grow and enjoy throughout the summer.
I will be posting all the developments in the garden so make sure to follow me on social media to keep up to date on how everything is coming along.
Happy Gardening Folks,