Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Spring Delights and Shopping for Plants

Let's start with Plant Combination of the Week. I thought this was rather tasty and I am quite smug about it because I had never grown this crocus before so wasn't sure of the exact shade of pink, I studied photos and hoped for the best; the pansy is from a mix but was flowering when I planted it so I knew the crocus had to fit with these shades of lavender and dusty pink. Note also the way the emerging leaves of Tulipa 'Silver Parrot' have a pinkish edge. I wish I could say that I had planned that detail but that's where serendipity comes in! The tulip is new to me too, so let's hope that fits with the colour scheme as planned...
Crocus tommasinianus var. roseus and Pansy 'Cancan'

 So all the classic signs of spring's approach are here: although the nights are still frosty the sun is almost warm, buds are swelling and threatening to burst and so are Elizabeth's sheep in the field  behind the back-up stock area.

Hard to get comfy nowadays
 The birds and the bees
The birds have gone berserk. It's like something out of Hitchcock. On the way to work a buzzard buzzed me, a rook dropped a twig, no a branch, on my car and blackbirds and pheasants played 'chicken' across the road. This afternoon as I stood at the top of my stepladder pruning the willow arbour a shadow dropped to the ground and there was an almighty shrieking. The sparrowhawk had nailed another blackbird and when I went to investigate  it was crouched on the ground mantling (covering the victim with its wings) and glaring at me to make sure I didn't even think of interfering. The predator got its come-uppance later when a couple of jackdaws called in reinforcements: within two minutes a cloud of angry birds - about 40 jackdaws plus rooks and magpies - was whirling and squawking around the hawk. Eventually it broke away and everyone went home.

A bee dives into Crocus 'Blue Pearl'

Bumblebees have been lumbering about for a while, but this is the first week I have noticed large numbers of honeybees rummaging in the flowers. They need all the help they can get after a hard winter. Joe says that both his hives died out this year, honeybees are in difficulty - mites, disease and now the weather have taken a heavy toll. Having as many early-flowering plants in your garden as possible helps these insects to recover.

To market, to market...
On Tuesday morning I went to the market to buy a few plants because I'm doing a demonstration/talk for a garden club next week so I want to be able to give them a few ideas for things they can be doing now. I'll let you know the recipe for the planting I do for them in next week's post.

I was very pleased to see that there was a new plant stall (Spinneywell  Nursery) at Moreton-in-Marsh market with some old favourites and a few unusual plants all in 9cm pots. Plants in small pots are very useful when you want to cram plenty of material into a planting. Market stalls will usually have competitively priced multibuy offers and of course the stallholder just brings what's looking good now - so it is easy to choose if you are wanting instant effects.

Moreton market - a major Cotswold attraction
Go ahead, have some sweeties!
It was hard to resist the gaudy primulas and little potfuls of daffs that were on display at the other stalls. It looked like a lovely easterish box of sweets. Don't go thinking I'm against primulas - they are great when you want a dollop of colour at this time of year, it's just that I was looking for something else, but I won't tell you what it was until next week. In fact I get annoyed by plant snobbery, it is yet another of my hobby horses (I have a whole herd). After all, why deprive yourself of a certain plant just because someone else thinks it is common as muck? Have the plants you like, that's what I say.
Barn Close Nursery's stall at the market.

Where do you get yours?
People often ask me where I get my plants. I try to propagate as many as I can myself but when I do buy I like to buy from a range of sources. Occasionally I buy a few from an exciting repository of rarities such as Bob Brown's Cotswold Garden Flowers; I also use mail order, go to local garden centres, farm shops, markets, horticultural shows, garden gate stalls with honesty boxes, even DIY stores (but here you have to be careful about the quality of the plants as they may have been under cover for too long or badly watered). In short I go where everyone else goes as I don't want to be like the annoying cookery recipes in magazines which look lovely but demand absurdly obscure ingredients.

I also now have the temptation of the Hillier plants that we sell at the pottery, they do a great range of shrubs and perennials and my next job is to finalise the order I'm placing to replenish our stocks in time for our April Foolishness event. I already have my beady eye on some of the goodies in their availability list...

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