Growing plants, comparing plants, writing about plants.
The world of plants is vast and can be daunting, but the pleasure of gardening is in learning what works; for you, for your garden and for the natural world around you. There’s no right or wrong, no better or worse, you’re free to decide for yourself what to grow.
Join me in an exploration of plants. I’ll be making visits to different gardens, nurseries, trade and public plant shows throughout the year, where I’ll be looking at the plants being grown and sold so that I can share ideas that you might want to try in your own garden. I’ll also be writing about vegetable growing on my allotment, and I’ll be updating this website with some of the many new introductions that come onto the market.
April and May
Scenes from the Savill Garden and Valley Garden at the end of March
I’m writing this on Easter Monday. The sun is shining, but every now and then it is covered by grey clouds and there is a flurry of snow. It doesn’t last long and the sun is soon out again, but the wind is bitterly cold. It’s safe to say it looks nicer through the window than it feels when I go outside.
I miss the much balmier conditions that we’ve been enjoying for the past week, but this sudden switch back to winter is entirely typical of this time of year. Statistically it snows more often at Easter than at Christmas and the frosts forecast for the next couple of nights are a common feature of April, and even May in many areas, when a sunny day often means a clear night which leads to temperatures dropping. The northerly wind really adds to the chill. The only thing we’re missing so far are showers and hail and I’m sure we’ll get those soon enough.
How do the plants cope with these sudden changes? It’s tempting to think that all those new leaves and flowers will be frost bitten and damaged, but most of the things we grow are perfectly hardy and will shrug off the cold. Daffodils, tulips and other spring bulbs, for instance, fare less well when the weather is hot at this time of year, with the display often cut short by unusually high temperatures. The majority of hardy trees and shrubs coming into leaf at the moment may be given pause for thought before they progress any further, but they shouldn’t be damaged.
There are plants that suffer, though. Blossom can be damaged by hard frosts, especially on plums and peaches which tend to flower very early compared to other fruit such as apples and pears. The flowers of some trees and shrubs can be damaged, too. Magnolia flowers often turn brown after a hard frost, and given the spectacular display of bloom they’ve had so far this year, that will be shame.
In my own garden the hellebores, cyclamen and snow drops of winter have given way to camellia, primroses, daffodils and the first tulips. The roses are leafing up, as is Physocarpus ‘Amber Jubilee’. The hostas are appearing and the clematis are growing away fast. I’ve just given the grass its first cut (it doesn’t take long, I don’t have much of a lawn!), tidied the edges and tidied the borders, cutting back the miscanthus, sedum and anemone stems that I’d left over winter and taking out the worst of the weeds/wildlfowers where they’re threatening to take over. Green alkanet is great for bees but not so good for other plants which can soon get completely engulfed in its huge leaves, and in a garden this small you can easily have too many bluebells and buttercups. The alliums are in leaf and I’m already looking forward to those dying back! The deciduous agapanthus and alstroemerias are coming back into leaf, too. Now they are ones to watch with frost forecast. Alstroemeria leaves are often killed off by a hard frost although they normally grow back quickly. The foliage of deciduous agapanthus can also be damaged so although mine is in a fairly sheltered spot I’ll pop a cloche over it to be on the safe side.
The copyright of all images and text used in this website belongs to Janice Shipp unless otherwise stated.