The blurred boundary of changing seasons

Viburnum-bodnantense-DawnAs the year turns nature dresses and redresses herself in a succession of seasonal floral and foliage combinations. Mostly this is a gradual affair in my garden, but the boundary between winter to spring offers the sharpest of the mostly blurred, creeping seasonal changes. There is the fading of the scented, late-winter blossom of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ whilst, at the same time, along the top of the fence Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ begins opening into small cascades of white flowers as it weaves its way through a climbing rose.

Around the edges of the budding, deciduous shrubs the shy, drooping hellebores take centre stage for a few weeks pushing their way through between a dwarf hebe or two.

And, it wouldn’t be spring if there weren’t patches of light shade lit with clusters of pale sunny primroses.

Primroses-spring-favourites

From March into April the pace of new growth begins to pick up and everywhere new fresh green shoots remind me of the variety of perennials that will take their place in the limelight at some point all the way through to the Michaelmas daisies of November!

Summer potential - daylilies
Summer potential – daylilies

Spring flowers drooping and cascading

helleborous orientalisLast autumn I hacked back an overgrown climbing rose. I had let it run free to see if it would flower more, but it was still heavily overshadowed by my neighbour’s large conifers.

clematis armandii Snowdrift
Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’
It is an ongoing problem of gardening that after the first five years of a new planting, serious, annual pruning is needed to keep the more successful specimens to appropriate sizes.

With the rose reduced in size the previously swamped clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ has finally started to flower. More of a trickle than a cascade so far.

However, the clematis armandii ‘Appleblossom’, planted at the same time as the ‘Snowdrift’, now cascades down the trellis. The pair make a textbook example of the direct sunlight requirements for most flowering climbers to give a good show.

clematis armandii Appleblossom
Clematis armandii ‘Appleblossom’ in full flow.

On the other hand some plants only require the light of dappled shade to produce a display of delicate, drooping jewels.

pink hellebore flower
A pink jewel.
Helleborus orientalis

Motif Combinations

Clematis armandii SnowdriftHere, in East Anglia, we’ve had a ‘green’ winter – that is no significant periods of below freezing temperatures and no snow. Early March and both my clematis armandii climbers are blooming almost a month earlier than last year.


St Peter, Ranworth rood screen
Detail of 15th century painting of ornate garment worn by St Peter on the Ranworth Rood Screen. Ranworth, Norfolk.

I am currently working on a 90 x 90 cm crepe de chine scarf. I’m combining a floral shape taken from the clematis and motifs that appear on the ornate robe of St Peter as depicted on the 15th-century Ranworth rood screen. At first glance you might assume that the motifs painted on this 15th-century panel were inspired by the surrounding flora and fauna of East Anglia. However, it is more likely they were copied from a pattern book that had been brought over from Northern Europe. It is even possible that these patterns were lifted from silk cloth woven in the northern cities of Italy such as Catanzaro and Lucca. And, some of these woven motifs were designs that had originated in China, migrating along the ‘Silk Road’ embedded in the rich silk cloth traded from the East to the West.

Clematis armandii Appleblossom
Clematis armandii Appleblossom

I read that the clematis armandii is native to China, but I don’t think this small flower shown on the St Peter’s robe is an ‘armandii’ motif, however I liked the idea of combining shapes from the 15th-century screen with a flower from my spring garden.