Monday, 21 February 2011

Shoots, snouts, spots, stripes and pots.

March 2010. This year Iris 'Harmony' has nearly finished flowering in late February.
That's odd. I've just been looking at last year's photographs and it seems that we are about two weeks ahead in terms of things popping out of the soil.  Bulbs in plantings more than a year old often emerge faster than in this season's plantings but is this global warming? I had assumed that the cold this winter was so drastic the plants would keep their heads down but I suppose last year's cold snap was later, so the plants hung on in their bunkers for a bit longer in 2010. 2008 was comparable to this year I think, but my photographic record shows that there was a hard frost in early March, so we can't get too excited yet.

Not sprung yet?

Oh but doesn't it make you skip about and gleefully rub your hands when you see all those big fat shoots coming up? As soon as I see the snouts of the tulips emerge I know that spring is not far off.

There is a surprising amount of colour in tulip shoots, some are tinged with russet, some glaucous green, others edged with pink or marbled with maroon.

It is worth considering the leaf colour as well as the flowers of tulips when planting - if you can echo these colours in the evergreen plants that are with them then the end of winter can provide some satisfying combinations. Sometimes it happens all by itself, serendipity is a big factor in successful gardening. The trick is to observe it and repeat the effect another year.

Putting on my anorak

Am I getting a bit geeky? At this time of year I can be seen pottering around the garden apparently peering at nothing - some people might assume I'm looking for pixies but really I am looking at details. Fine details drive the galanthophiles to wear out the knees on their trousers looking at the different green markings on snowdrops and the hellebore enthusiasts to slip discs as they peer into the latest picotee.
I. 'Katherine Hodgkin'

We are all hungry for visual entertainment after the greyness of a British winter. In pots and containers the little details such as the markings on Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' and the flushes of colour on emerging foliage are so important at this time of year: they are easier to see than in the chaos of summer, they feed our appetite for colour and if we take time to look at least every few days we can see that they are changing really rapidly, a sure sign that we are not going to be stuck in winter gloom forever.

Pile 'em high
Once again this is where pots come to the rescue. It is so easy to forget that pots can be moved! As soon as little bulbs and iris are out you don't have to leave them on the ground, you can pick them up and put them on your windowsill or on a wall so that you can study them more closely or give them a sniff.

This one I did plan.
Don't be afraid to put pots on pots; it works best if you set the small pot in the big pot when you do the original planting, a small, narrow pot can be sunk into the compost for extra stability and moisture retention, when filled with similar plants to the main planting it gives extra height and impact. I planted the one pictured right during the talk I did in November and it's looking promising. 

You can, however, use small or medium-sized pots to fill the gaps left in big pots by shrubs that didn't survive the snow.This week I gave up on a bald Pittosporum garnettii and cut it flush with the surface of the compost (digging it out would risk damaging the bulbs coming up around it). Then I filled a narrow-based pot with spare Helleborus foetidus, which I had previously weeded out of the gravel, and set it in the gap, making sure that it was well wedged in and unable to fall down. It looks almost like I planned it that way...

1 comment:

  1. Well done Harriet,great blog