What to see out and about now
Its officially Spring and on Sunday, British summer time begins. Its an hour less in bed, but who really cares when the nights start to get lighter and lighter.
Also, on Monday (March 29th), we can meet up to 6 people from 2 households outdoors, including in gardens.
If you heading out - where to go? What to see?
Colour is starting to burst out everywhere - so go looking and you'll find some gorgeous flowers and walks.
What to see - Top 6
L-R clockwise: Camellia, Narcissus, Rhododendron, Magnolia, Rhododendron, Magnolia, Scilla
Its time to find a woodland and go for a walk. I took all these pictures at Arley Hall and Gardens, near Northwich in Cheshire on Monday (dogs allowed - and I am about to do a planting plan for a woodland area and was looking for inspiration - so technically a business trip. I have the best job) .
Meandering around the beautiful wooded Grove area I was struck by how deep and saturated the colours looked. They sang out from a distance and just pulled you towards them. I don't know if its the year we have just had, but I don't remember being hit by colour like this before in March. Perhaps I have never took the time to look properly before this year? Soon, many more rhododendrons will open, later more magnolias and bluebells will follow and tree canopies will start to fill in. For the next few months, woodland walks will be colour for you flower crazing soul.
Could you grow these in your garden? Mmm...some yes, some possibly, some definitely, some why would you?
First, the yes. Scillas are beautiful bulbs that naturalise. Plant them in Autumn and let them come back year after year. The colour for me is epic - a real electric blue jolt on a dank day.
Then the possible. First point is that plants like Camellias and Rhododendrons really like ericaceous soil - they are acid loving plants - and the woodland litter soil that they grow in provides this perfectly. Do you have this type of soil in your garden? If so - get the species sizes right (The Pink pineapple type rhododendron flower above is almost as big as my head....).and you can give it a go. Or you can buy a pot and grow them that way with the right ericaceous compost. Just be prepared to repot them as the plant grows - though they will never be quite as good as in ground. (We've all seen Camellias with those yellow unhealthy looking leaves...wrong soil - too limey). Personally for an average size urban garden, for me they can look at bit 1970's Margo and Jerry, all shoved in together with a few conifers in an island bed.....(showing my age, google it). In fact, I used to have a slightly irrational hatred of Rhododendrons and Azaleas - until I saw them en masse in their ideal place - a dappled shade woodland. Yes, its always back to the mantra - right place, right plant = happy plant. (so really this is also the why would you category...unless you have a woodland at your home?)
Now the definite. A magnolia. Every garden, I think should have a magnolia tree (or bush). I just love them.. truly, madly, and deeply. Flowers start to appear as little buds on bare stems and grow into generous suede covered rugby balls that you know will soon burst into a flower most glorious that your breathe will be taken away. For mine, I do grow it in a large pot. I used Xmas money from my Dad and In - laws, so when the time comes, they will still be with me for a long long time to come in the new flowers that burst open every year. Its in a framed view from my kitchen and I can (and do) sit at the dining table and just stare it. There are magnolias for everywhere. Here I will focus on 3 for small / medium gardens. Again, right place, right plant. Pick the right size and put them in a sheltered spot and water well in the first year, and then they will pretty much look after themselves. Top tip, if you must prune it (dead, diseased, crossing wood only really), do it right after flowering, otherwise you risk pruning out next years flowers...
Magnolia stellata. A bush really, also in white and grows to 2m x2m
Magnolia x. loebenri Leonard Messel - delicious scent and reaches a chunky 6m x8m for medium gardens as a real feature
Magnolia liliiflora "Nigra" - amazing colour and a compact 3m x 3m