April Showers Anyone?

Well what a difference a week makes, Derbyshire is so much more leafy and green than when I went away and so much drier too. Although, as I finish work to sit down and write this the heavens are opening and we are, at last, about to experience some April showers. It is such a wonderful time of year so much fresh growth and promise. Gardening though, is a cruel world, teaching you many things, including just how fickle we can be and how quickly things can change. It is only a matter of weeks since I was writing about magnificent Magnolias coming out into flower and today I am sweeping up the fallen petals, which have lost all appeal and only seems like an inconvenience. Luckily nature provides other wonders to turn our heads until the Magnolias are back next year.

Honesty is a good policy, It provides valuable nectar in April, as being Biennial it is up and at em early in its second year whilst annuals and perennials are still only thinking about flowering in the main. It prefers chalky or sandy soils and part shade although it will grow in sunshine too if the soil is right. It looks lovely mixing with bluebells or Tulips as an alternative to wallflowers. Lunaria annua is the Biennial form, which you can get in white as well as the purple. Make sure you leave the seedheads to develop either so they can look architectural in the garden over the winter or to use in Christmas wreaths and decorations. There is also a perennial Honesty rediviva which prefers the ground a little damper and has a faint scent unlike the biennial.

It’s been hard work protecting all the delicate seedlings in the greenhouse with the frazzling temperatures we experienced over the weekend. I hope you have not lost anything and managed to keep them watered and shaded from the intense heat in the middle of the day. Be warned though it is still April, it is not time to plant Tomatoes or Summer bedding plants outside yet. Even if you did have your shorts on and a bbq on bank holiday Monday!! my guess looking at the forecast is by next weekend we will all be back to woolly jumpers! Hopefully now you have planted your Beans, runner, french, borlotti along with Squash and Sweetcorn in pots either in the greenhouse or a sunny windowsill. It is also time to start some herbs like basil and coriander to keep in pots in the greenhouse. I love the combination of scents from Tomatoes and Basil when I go in the greenhouse to water all summer. It always makes me hungry.

Another sight which gave us so much hope and cheer only days ago were the golden Daffodils dancing above the grass

If, yours now look like the ones in the photo now is the time to sprinkle them with Potash and then do nothing. Look the other way from their shabbiness and they will reward you next year with another beautiful display. If you have only a few daffodils in the border then tie their foliage up like I discussed a couple of weeks ago but with a swathe, like those in the picture it is just not practical timewise. Potash you can get either in the form of a white powder which is easy to sprinkle over a large area or feed them with Tomorite if you just have a few in a pot.

Well, it is the season after all so I couldn’t not mention one of my favourite flowers of all time. Tulips are elegant, graceful and sumptuous whilst in their prime and much better at dying than daffodils.

‘Queen of the Night’ is my absolute favourite either paired with ‘Black Parrot’ or ‘Spring Green’. I have been swayed a little this year by the orange collection which is planted in a space with no other colours to conflict and looks great with the the dark purple heucheras. I just wish they had been slightly later and the Alliums were also out. The Purples and Oranges would be a brilliant if bold combination. The plain red tulips against the Artichoke foliage also look striking and have turned my head a little but Queen of the Night just has everything for me, the colour the shape the height. It is like a really good glass of red wine in a flower form.

The experiment continues apace, with all the plants in flower due to the recent hot weather, even though they are only in an unhearted summerhouse. The gap in growth, between those in peat free and those in normal multi purpose, continues to widen though as you can see yourself from today’s pictures.

Other exciting developments this week include the first appearance in 2019 of the Asparagus.

There are two shoots so far. The crowns have been in 2 years now and were 2 year old crowns when I bought them so we are expecting our first crop this year. Very exciting.

You need oodles of patience and quite a big space to grow asparagus but as it is one of the most expensive vegetables to buy, as well as amazing to eat fresh, I think, if you have space, it is well worth the sacrifice. Don’t grow from seed, buy established crowns from well known vegetable seed and plant merchants, like Thompson and Morgan. Asparagus is not too fussy about soil type, it just needs to be well drained and on the alkaline side. It will even tolerate dappled shade. They are strange to plant as you put the crowns on a ridge in the trench you dig but after that, so long as you keep the bed weed free and fed, you should enjoy a good crop within 4 years of planting and for many years after that. Harvest from Mid April by cutting spears off 1 ” below the surface once they are about 7″ long. After about 8 weeks of harvesting allow the rest of the spears to develop, treating it very much like Rhubarb where you leave the rest of the stems to put energy back into the plant for next years crop.

So, whilst I am still searching for the names of a couple of trees I found in tenerife. I will leave you to hover between, thinking summer is here or is winter is back . Do I need to water or put the fleece back on the seedlings? Does the greenhouse door need leaving open or shut!! Shall I cut the lawn before it rains again. OMG I weeded that the other day and now look at it! Spring is full of dilemas how anyone has time to go on holiday I will never know!!! Don’t forget to walk in your local wood and smell the Bluebells. Happy Days in the Garden x