Friday 18th – Sunday 20th March 2022 – A Perfect Weekend

Three days of really glorious sunshine this weekend made for a happy Head Gardener (and a happy tulip too, opening up to greet the sun). I’ve been busy pruning penstemon (possibly a bit early, as we may yet have more frosts, but I’m reckless like that); tying in clematis and climbing roses; pricking out seedings; sowing tomatoes and all sorts of other bits and bobs. The garden was thrumming with insect life – fritillary, peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies were all seen but were all camera shy; several different types of bumble bee and other bees were spotted; the robin followed me around and the Under-Gardener bullied the blackbirds. Spring has sprung!

Last week’s photo of Soggy Bottom didn’t show it to its best advantage. The bright dappled sunlight filtering through does, though, so here are a few pics. I have cropped some of these a bit as the compost heaps and accumulated junk around the periphery rather spoil the effect, but they are still showing slightly in the shot below, annoyingly.
I can’t resist a bit of “wombling” – recycling or repurposing things that others might throw away – nor can I resist the temptation to sow a few first early potatoes a bit too soon. Every year I chuck just a few in the ground while there is still some risk of frost and every year, without fail, those very early spuds are not ready any sooner than the later sown ones, which catch up quickly anyway. Really I do this early sowing because after the Winter I JUST WANT TO BLOODY WELL GET ON WITH IT. Here, I’m trying something slightly different – I’m using a cloche made from some clear plastic packaging to give two spuds a little protection and there’s a third spud planted and then tucked up under several layers of horticultural fleece. This might just be enough to keep them warm… a low of 3 Celsius is forecast tonight, so a few of the things I’ve gambled with this weekend might struggle – but at least it’s dry, so I might just get away with it. Also in shot here, the old rose arch (well part of it) which toppled in the storm named after me. I intend to grow beans up it, though I do wonder whether it’s quite tall enough. Next to the new rose arch, it looks so attractive from the seats under the pergola at the top of the garden, that I’ve decided to put one in on the other side of the rose arch too – the repeated shapes look surprisingly elegant when seen from further away and it’ll be good use of space, too, if it works. The other side is a lot shadier but peas always do well there, so that’s what I’ll try.
The Under-Gardener had to make a thorough inspection. He’s especially interested in potatoes, though admittedly more in the form of chips or crisps.
I decided that, yes, it would be nice to have pebble paths right the way around the veg beds, so Chief Engineer cracked on with it. We may live to regret using cardboard instead of membrane as the base layer but I really do hate that stuff so much. I’m forever finding crappy disintegrating bits of it around the garden and the sorry compacted soil underneath looks lifeless and strangely slimy. I end up pulling it up or tearing holes in it so I can plant through it.
Another section finished. I’m so pleased with how smart it looks, it’s making me think completely differently about the veg garden. I’m going to put a lot more thought into the appearance of the veg beds – there’s no reason they can’t look attractive as well as being productive. As part of my intuitive gardening experiment for this year, I’m going to try planting the veg beds as if they were mixed borders – so I’ll plant veg in groups rather than rows and I’ll arrange the heights as one would with herbaceous perennials, with taller things at the back, descending in height from back to front. Of course, I might be scuppered by different things growing at different rates, but it will be fun to try a different approach nonetheless. We’ve run out of pebbles for now, so the other side of the bed will have to wait until we can buy some more!

Three little friends, all in different parts of the garden. I wish they’d eat the bloody whitefly, there’s been no let-up in the bloody things since last year. You’d think colder weather would see whitefly off, but apparently not. Nothing seems to get rid of them. I’ve even got them in the house, on the houseplants, I just can’t get rid of the pesky things. Maybe I should bring the ladybirds indoors. Or do they only eat aphids, not whitefly? Surely SOMETHING eats whitefly (besides me, when I fail to wash the kale thoroughly enough…!)

At times, it was almost too hot for the Under-Gardener in the sun and he needed a little snooze in the shade (keeping one eye open to supervise, of course).
I never tire of these perky little drumstick primula.

Nothing especially unusual about these bellis daisies, which I rather like for their simplicity, but look at the size of them – they really are huge, so I included my finger for scale. They’re happy little things and I like the pink edges. I suppose they’re a weed really, but I did have some cultivated ones at one point so perhaps these are the result of some promiscuity between the wild garden type and their fancier cultivated cousins. Whatever, I like them, they can stay.

I’ve worked really hard on denser planting in the long border, above and below, to give a lusher look and to have fewer gaps. Most garden design books will tell you that bigger blocks of the same plants, repeated at intervals, will give a more effective, harmonious look than a random collection of single specimens in no particular order. Until last year my approach to gardening in the borders was mostly pick and mix, like a kid in a sweet shop, but more recently I’ve worked on building up more stock of my perennials through cuttings and divisions so that I can have them planted in bigger groups – it’s starting to pay off already. I’m really pleased with how it’s looking. Damn those pale pink tulips though, messing up my new colour scheme. I wanted hot bright colours only in here – but clearly I did a terrible job of evicting them last year. I’ve marked all these with sticks so that I know where to find them for removal this year once they’ve finished flowering!

Not exactly my finest hour as a photographer but that there is the first leaf-bud break on the largest apple tree. Hurrah! Chief Engineer’s pruning skills advance every year. If the rest of the Spring continues in the same vein as this weekend, we could be in for a bumper year for blossom (and fruit), which would make a nice change after the dismal, cold grey year we had last year. Looking back at my notes, I recall it felt like warm weather was never coming. This year already seems better.
He’s yawning, but it looks like he’s talking, doesn’t it? He followed me around all day, contentedly settling down to snooze near me, occasionally coming over to demand affection. It’s hard not to stroke him when he’s this cute. He knows this, of course.
I pricked out these tender purple bell vine seedlings. They’ve been indoors in a heated propagator – I’ve moved them to the warmer greenhouse and wrapped them up in multiple layers of fleece, I hope they make it. I’m planning to try Sarah Raven’s suggestion of growing them up a wigwam with thunbergia (black-eyed Susan – you know, now I type that, I’m not entirely sure that plant name is especially politically correct! Why has Susan got a black eye?!) The only problem is that the thunbergia is very shy to germinate, whilst the purple bell vine (rhodochiton) is not at all, and I won’t manage to get equal numbers of the two plants. Sarah Raven probably has several heated greenhouses at her disposal, whereas I am juggling three small heated propagators and four grow lights!
This periwinkle has really taken off for the first time ever, it’s a beautiful colour and really lights up the otherwise dull and dark bottom of the hedge here. I think improving the light by getting the hedge cut at the right time has made a big difference and the improved flowering means I mind a little bit less about its incredibly irritating invasiveness.
Sunday found me labouring (or, rather, failing to labour effectively) with a really heinous hangover. I had to stop and rest in a deckchair at intervals. It was lovely sitting in the sun with my eyes closed, even though the sinking of the lawn due to the mole’s subterranean earthworks is more than a little unnerving under chair and foot. I’ve stuffed crushed garlic down all the molehills and holes – knowing my luck it’ll start bloody growing and we’ll end up with garlic-smelling lawn, without actually getting rid of the mole.
At the end of the day, it’s all been a bit much. I felt like this too. Oooooooffffff.

Published by Notes from the Under-Gardener

Keen amateur gardener, tending a large home garden growing flowers, fruit and veg, ably supported by husband and dog.

2 thoughts on “Friday 18th – Sunday 20th March 2022 – A Perfect Weekend

  1. I get itchy fingers and start planting seeds too early,like you, I can’t help it. I know what you mean about the membrane. The garden we inherited has it in some of the graveled border beds, but I want to plant more things in them, so I’m digging under the gravel. cutting the membrane and popping in more plants. A great weekend of gardening, thanks for sharing it all.

    Liked by 1 person

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