Cruel April Frost

Come on my pretties said the early April sun, so up they came and on came the buds, leaves and blossom.

Light frost on Tuesday morning – yes we can cope said most of the plants, a few with a bit of scorch – Impatiens tinctoria was the first major casualty. Dahlia White Honka displayed blackened tips on newly emerging foliage.

Wednesday morning

-2C at 6:00AM – but hey said the plants we’re getting by, except the emerging fig foliage got topped and the potatoes started to look depressed. Hydrangeas were showing signs of bruising and H aspera lost top growth.

Thursday morning

-4C at 6:00AM. Got home in the evening – gutted! All Wisteria growth scorched, hostas collapsed, lilies bowed, buddlejas toppled, ferns will have to start over again as will most hydrangeas. Continue reading “Cruel April Frost”

frost world

Digitalis parviflora seedhead

Today at 10:43AM the temperature is -2C but rising. The sun is beginning to clear corners of fields, green re-emerging from the glaze of white, drips patter down lightly as the frost melts. The Snow Queen is banished where the sun touches.

Currently two squirrels (grey), chaffinch, greenfinch, bullfinch and blackbirds are under the bird feeder, there is incessant to-ing and fro-ing from the feeder filled with sunflower seeds, primarily by Great Tits and some Blue Tits with an occasional intervention from robins. One squirrel is a great burier so I have a feeling there will be sunflowers emerging in random places when the time comes. Continue reading “frost world”

Mild or bitter?

Red Admiral on the wing in Mid December UK
Red Admiral on the wing in mid December

I too am jumping on the “It’s way too mild in the December garden” bandwagon.

Flies are still (annoyingly) about, the occasional bumble bee burbles by. Two Pippistrelle bats were out hunting two nights ago. This Red Admiral butterfly was on the wing last week.

OK, you might expect the odd primrose to be flowering fitfully and possibly daffodil Rijnveld’s Early sensation to be in flower already, plus a sprinkling of early periwinkle flowers and some tentative winter flowering jasmine.

Last year’s Iris reticulata Cantab are flowering early in amongst a scented leaved geranium left outside which should have expired by now. Iris Katharine Hodgkin is also in flower but looking a bit weedy and scruffy – should have stayed underground until February m’dear!

Frost hits tender plants 23/11/15 UK
One hard frost on 23rd November 2015

Tenders like Solanum rantonettii which dropped their foliage overnight after a hard frost in November are now re-sprouting. The hardier Impatiens tinctoria is pushing juicy shoots above ground again. Nasturtium seedlings are germinating in the flowerbeds although the parents were zapped by this frost. The large tree-like plant is the dead top growth of Dahlia imperialis which has now been dug up and the tuber/s put into storage.

The first tentative yellow ribbons of Witch Hazel Westerstede have unrolled from brown fuzzed buds. New growth is appearing on vulnerable plants such as fuchsia and hydrangeas, some bitter weather and – ouch!

To be fair I’ve had a very extended period to get tenders into the greenhouse, I only dug up assorted abutilons yesterday, the leaves of which haven’t so far been touched by the few frosts we’ve had.

… but what happens if we get bad weather Jan-March? And if we don’t and things continue as they are spring will have been fast forwarded, what will there be left to delight us in February? Although the snowdrops are sort of where I’d expect them to be, perhaps just a little more up than usual and most of my daffodils are still underground.

Stormy weather

Much wind and rain over the last few weeks but not as much as Northern Britain this time. It’s winding itself up again tonight as I shut up the chickens, the garden is due for another southerly battering. The wind is soughing through the fine top branches of the nearby oaks accompanied by the brittle rattle of desiccated hornbeam leaves in the hedges.

This morning it’s more full-on there’s a great roar of wind and trees – just waiting for the lashing rain to begin. A day to sit and plan.

Gaining momentum

The gardening mojo is starting to return. There are times when I don’t want to think or plan or garden particularly. I can’t bear to look at garden books or catalogues – now the excitement is returning.

The ragged garden I look out on this morning with its unkempt grass because it’s been too wet to mow but in this mild weather keeps on growing, transforms into the luxuriant abundance of summer in my mind’s eye. But before then there are borders to tidy, weed and mulch, seeds to be considered, purchased, sown and nurtured, soon the new growing year will begin in earnest!

No prizes to be won

Carpe Diem tile
Frosty sun

I wouldn’t do very well in the Cottage Garden Society most plants flowering on Christmas Day competition. My garden appears to be in lockdown and maybe we are colder here than other parts of the West Country as we’re on the flat with cold rolling down from Salisbury Plain? There is very little to look at flower-wise.

Trad is musing on tidying and order in the garden. I think there is a difference between tidy and order, tidy is a state, order is something potentially more decorative. My garden is neither!

Carpe Diem apparently originally meant ‘Pluck the day’, more appropriate for the garden and less aggressive than ‘Seize the day’. Today’s frost (after rain last night) is not as pretty as the previous post, a workmanlike freeze which isn’t going to lift much despite the sun. Some parts of the UK have had a snowfall but not here.

The first tentative ribbons unfurl from Hamamelis Westerstede
The first tentative ribbons unfurl from Hamamelis Westerstede

Witch Hazel Westerstede is one of only a couple of flowers attempting to bloom today. The other is Daphne Jacqueline Postill which is not quite ready to open although the buds are showing promise.

Gardening is supposed to be on the agenda today but with soggy and frosted soil it’s not much of a prospect – oh well.

Maybe it’s a day for planning the summer borders,  seed catalogues are starting to drop through the letterbox and Avon Bulbs are tempting me with snowdrops.

Frost. What frost?

Eaten apple
Food for Blackbirds and Fieldfares

Yesterday another hard frost laid a glamorous mantle over the mouldering leaves and shaggy lawn. As I shut up the shed in the near dark the frost had crept back silver in the half light giving a slight crunch underfoot.

Today a big gold sun is just appearing over a line of trees having been officially up for 29 minutes accompanied by a strengthening south westerly wind. Green world is emphatically back.

We don’t have gently lowing cattle round here, this morning I can hear them shouting, complaining and bellowing more than grumpily as they do, the wonky Donkey in the village is sawing away, a distant cockerel is welcoming the sun and a couple of ducks are waak waaking in the waterlogged field.

Plants have had a few more rounds with The Frost and look further battered, more have succumbed or fully retreated. In hollows and by hedges plants didn’t see the sun all day and the frost didn’t lift. I tidied up my frozen auriculas, pulling off rotten leaves with numbing fingers, the sun fleetingly graced them in late afternoon.

I savour the still, light falling moments on clear cold days in the run up to the shortest day. Last night I stood under an ash tree, stubby twigs with arthritic black knobbed joints stood sharply defined against the last of a pale darjeeling tea coloured sunset. I was hoping like last Saturday to see a tawny owl swoop low across the field, but not last night.

In the garden the Jackdaws are back having been out in the country since early summer. They are hanging around the chicken run as are the Magpies who are getting cockier again as the food sources get fewer. Yesterday there was a squawk of Blackbird alarm by the replenished bird feeders and the Sparrowhawk came through, unsuccessful I think.

I set-to on the Merryweather Damson planted nearly two years ago, taking off lower branches and tipping back top branches, it already looks taller with its skirts lifted a little. I had a couple of damsons this year, more flavourful than an insipid Victoria Plum, just that little hint of pleasurable sourness even at their ripest.

Trees can be scary. From a not too distant perspective the old apple trees which have had major butchery at some point fairly recently are now covered with water shoots, they are getting towards their last probably, but are familiar and friendly. The closer you get to the trees with pruning in mind and look up into the network of naked branches, the higher the trees become and the likelihood of being able to get at most branches without a ladder recedes.  Now the leaves are off one of the apple trees I can see climbing rose The Garland has clambered higher than I had expected, sprays of small hips adding a faint air of festive jollity. A mole has had a field day running rings around the tree under the cover of a worm attracting hazel leaf carpet and rotting apples.

Skimmia japonica reevesiana
I shall have to make do with Skimmia instead.

Last year the birds left me plenty of holly berries, not so this year, suddenly they’ve all gone, none for me.

This time next week it will be the shortest day – the year turns again.

I feel pretty…

Bittercress in frost
The gardener’s bane bittercress takes on a frosty glamour

I feel pretty and witty and bright!

Boy, does frost change everything. Even weeds look spiffing.

That was yesterday, today is windy with fitful rain, all is green again.


More tender plants have been battered into final submission, the newer growth on the myrtle has been taken but surprisingly Pelargonium sidoides is still with us, the rest of the pelargoniums have succumbed.

It is starting to brighten, pockets of blue amongst the grey can be seen and now shafts of sun are illuminating the garden.

Yesterday the frost stayed in the footprints of my random trails round the overgrown lawn, and as darkness fell a big gold moon heaved itself into the sky and a fire roared, its orange flames providing warmth and a focus in the darkening night.

Pennisetum Red Head
Pennisetum Red Head – the foliage is dying back but the fuzzies remain

In the frosty stillness of the day the loud clattering of individual leaves ricocheting off hazel branches as they fell startled me. Today the wind is making a restless soundscape and challenging the last few leaves still hanging on, mainly apple, oak and some hazels.

The Pennisetum and some of the other grasses are still holding their heads others are looking somewhat battered, although planting bulbs a few weeks ago I found my jumper had gathered quite a few embedded pennisetum seeds which had to be teased from the wool.

Hydrangea Crug So Cool
Iced flowers of Hydrangea Crug So Cool

The last sale bulbs are finding homes but as ever I’m digging up others in my quest to find space.

I finally shelled out for the white Allium Mount Everest mainly because
Avon Bulbs  had reduced them in their sale. Crocus Ladykiller has been added to the white border and daffodil W P Milner has taken up residence with Muscari Peppermint. Snowdrops and daffodils are already pushing through in the spinney, copse, brake.

Written in March (really)

frosty-morningSmall clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

From Written in March, William Wordsworth, 1802

Sadly the rain hasn’t gone, but here we are, it’s March! Yesterday dawned frosty, sparkly and sunny. Today grey and windy, another dose of rain is on the way.

Yesterday everything had that extra glamour spring sun brings,  flickers of soft sheened rooks and crows lazily taking off and landing as they poked about in the fields. The calling of Buzzards as they wound higher and higher in the warming air. And in the conservatory it got to 31C, huge temperature swings, the Eryngium ebracteatum has started to germinate but it’s not a great environment for seedlings with these swings.

Outside Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is still pumping out scent from pale pink flowers. Pink new growth the colour of young rhubarb and the buds on the Paeonia rockii look horribly vulnerable, yesterday bowed down to the ground by the frost, today perky but wind battered.

Some of the seeds sown a couple of weeks ago in the unheated greenhouse are already up, and all the sweetpeas are now showing. Some of the umbel seedlings outside particularly Laser Trilobum are coming up now too. A shy and retiring umbel from Marina Christopher at Phoenix Plants, Jellito lists seeds, apparently it’s called Horse Caraway (horse in a plant name normally denoting it’s not worth much), but apparently it possesses some sort of beneficial essential oil.

The Sparrowhawk is active, last week it came round a low hedge a foot away from me at waist height, then up and over the lean-to shed homing in with speed and stealth on the bird feeders. Sometimes it sits in the bird feeder tree just looking around. Yesterday while I was out it had struck lucky I think,  I came back to a scattering of fresh small black feathers on the lawn, not sure who bought it yesterday!

scoot-housemk2The mole has been horribly busy working the ground we moved the chickens off, running just under the surface lifting the chicken grazed turf in lines, loops and dead ends. It’s odd to think that pesky little creature can heave it’s way so easily through such packed earth.

This is Scoot House Mark 2 it’s just missing a flag on a wavy pole. As the new chickens don’t care much for nest boxes and prefer to make nests by tearing up newspaper and rearranging the wood shavings, its just flat inside. The idea is that we can move them round the garden more easily whilst keeping the electric fence on. The fox (or a fox) still shows up sporadically on the wildlife cam.

I’ve just looked up the Wordsworth poem after I wrote the above – this website quotes from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal. Apparently the poem was written on Good Friday, 16th April 1802 (not March) as William and Dorothy walked from Ullswater to Ambleside over Kirkstone pass…

“The view above Ambleside very beautiful. There we sate, and looked down on the green vale. We watched the crows at a little distance from us become white as silver, as they flew in the sunshine; and, when they went still farther, they looked like shapes of water passing over the green fields.”

Some things change little.

That’s it! Show’s over

Le Vonne is gone
Le Vonne is gone

Along came the frost and wiped the tenders out. To be fair the dahlias have not been looking their best in the past few weeks anyway. There was a hard frost on Tuesday followed by less severe frosts over the last couple of days.

A  pale peach light is suffusing the fog as the sun rises, the skeletons of the trees standing dark against their misty backdrop, the underlying structures emerging from the depleting leaf cover. The huge elegantly sinuous bird cherry has been good value, its red leaves have added drama to the gardenscape. Now the last leaves hang browned and sullen, one by one letting go and drifting to the ground.

Listening to Mary Anne Hobbs on 6 Music and strangely The Doors Break on Through has just come on although not quite “You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day” it’s slightly apposite, even though the day has already gone over the cusp.

The sun is now higher, washing the pony field with corridors of light. The shaggy tribe have just squelched past in single file to seek out the sun where they’ll stand facing east, wisps of steam rising from their coats.