I may be temporarily gardenless but . . .

Bouquet-kitchenFor the first time in 22 years I am not spending spring weekends both coaxing and at the same time taming a garden from its winter state. It is a strange sensation to be without even a windowsill of outdoor plant space. Dare I say it, for the moment it makes me feel rootless!

Here is my old garden last year on the 26th April 2016 . . .

26-April-2016And, here is my last photo of the garden taken on 27 February 2017 before the pots were loaded onto the lorry.

Back-garden-27-Feb-2017B&W

So it is thank goodness for the odd bunch of seasonal flowers.

seasonal-flowersFor me certain colour combinations are simply crying out to be tweaked and developed into some form of textile work .  .  .

sp2watercoourHere, above and below, are a couple of ways I have manipulated the images to emphasise the colours and the shapes in preparation for possibly a silk scarf or a hand hooked cushion cover.

sp2-sketchAfter working on these photos saving some and deleting others, I pondered my gardenless state. Reminiscing I scrolled back through hundreds of old photos featuring the gone garden when I came upon this strange picture. If you were wondering just how odd some people can get here’s proof. No, it wasn’t April Fool’s Day either when I concocted this visual yarn!

A-moment-of-whimsey

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A few early spring flowers

Iris-KHMy favourite Iris reticulata cultivar is ‘Katharine Hodgkin’. Strictly speaking I. reticulata are late-winter bloomers brightening up the February gloom, but my bulbs often don’t flower until well into March. This cultivar is a hybrid between I.winogradowii and I.histrioides and, provided with free draining soil and some sunshine, flowers well. The above bulbs are in a pot. They were mistakenly dug up last autumn from beneath a weeping pear. They were then unceremoniously and temporarily shoved into an empty pot and forgotten until I found them blooming earlier this month. It appears benign neglect hasn’t been detrimental.

We’ve had a week of on and off sunshine here in Norfolk and most of the cherry trees are just about coming into bloom. However, even in more sheltered gardens the double blossoms are still only fat, about-to-burst buds. Sadly, the forty-year-old cherry tree in my father’s garden has died after a combination of old age and over vigorous pruning, but the Magnolia soulangeana lives to bloom for another spring.

1
View over the Yare Valley. Who said Norfolk was flat?

Magnolia soulangeana is a flowering tree. It is often planted as a feature tree as I think this one was. It was originally surrounded by lawn, but rebuilding of the house and the introduction of a terrace has resulted in it now growing up against the terrace wall. Its moment of glory is fleeting, but as it’s so early in the horticultural year it is most welcome after the grey, grey winter.

Magnolia

It has plenty of blooms which can now be easily appreciated from standing on the terrace and looking down into the tree – a new and unexpected perspective.

Over several winter weekends I emptied all my pots in preparation for moving house.

Empty-pots

I did take a few photos of the winter garden just before it was partially deconstructed.

Last-garden-photo-21-Feb-2017

It was hard, awkward work emptying the big pots and the biggest two pots with fifteen-year-old clipped yews had to be left.  I couldn’t even budge them and I couldn’t bear to cut the yews to pieces. It all ended up making me feel like  .  .  .  .  .  Sad-figure2

Still, an overflowing tub of grape hyacinths is an uplifting sight,

Pot-grape-hyacinths

as are the magnolia flowers.

Magnolia-flower

 

Will it be another green winter?

Sunflower-bokehIt is the first of December and still we haven’t had a severe frost. Usually by now all the dahlias have been blackened and the garden reduced to its winter skeleton of leafless shrubs and trees punctuated by a few structural evergreens. This autumn has been very wet for East Anglia and even the sunflower seed heads have rotted into an unattractive slimy state. On Saturday morning I’d waited long enough for the frost and decided to tidy up my front garden clearing it of all the soggy, green mess.

December colour in the garden
Monday, 1 December 2014.
Back garden in Norfolk.

The upside of these weather conditions is that as I work my view of the back garden is still very green, even on a grey day like today, which is probably why my latest scarf is featuring parsley greens and wheatsheaf golds.

pelicans medieval motifs
A design featuring stylised pelicans and medieval motifs.
Form and colour inspired by the historical and horticultural backdrop of East Anglia.

Counting the Birds

long-tailed tit
Long-tailed Tit
Photo taken by my father.
A couple of times every year the British charity the RSPB (the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) asks the nation, or anybody that can spare an hour, to join their ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’. People can take part watching for birds in their garden or watch from a bench in their local park. The idea is to get a snapshot of the numbers and varieties of birds present in our local environment. I’ve been taking part for the last seven years, but the survey has been going for 35 years.

I did the survey this morning. It was very dreary in the winter garden, but sitting waiting to catch sight of anything alive (other than plants) I noticed how much wind damage has been done in the recent storms.

back garden in winter
Midwinter and a dreary back garden – not a bird in sight.

Twenty minutes into the hour and I still hadn’t seen a single bird, but then all of a sudden four blue tits flew in and started flitting all over the half-pruned wisteria. I’ve just uploaded my count to the survey page. I’ve definitely had less sightings this year. In a couple of weeks’ time and after a lot of number crunching the RSPB will publish an online map and report for the whole country and I will be able to see if my garden bird numbers fit with the general trend. I hope not especially as I didn’t see a single finch this year.