We were expecting March to bring some signs of spring but really our seasons remained confused and muddled. March has brought us warm sunny days, days with cold biting winds, days with heavy persistent rain and many combinations of these.
My March report started with references to the weather as it controlled when we gardenened and days when it prevented us from getting out in the garden.
“During the first 2 days, March had delivered so many different types of weather, clear skies, sunshine, dark heavy cloud cover, rain and sleet. I wonder what else this month might have in store. This unseasonal weather delayed the arrival of our frogs until March whereas February is more usual a time. They soon added large clumps of spawn down one side of the wildlife pond.”
To help the smaller creatures that share our garden with us and help with pest control and pollination of our fruit we had great fun creating a new habitat for them, in the form of a log pile. The log pile is aimed specifically at beetles who are great pest controllers. We particularly appreciate their love of slug eggs!
On the page opposite my frog photos I feature some of our large collection of Hellebore.
“Each year we add a few more Hellebores to our collection. This year is no exception! We are also getting a few interesting seedlings appearing, and some are worth keeping.”
Turning the page I moved on to looking at the bird life we enjoyed in March, where I featured a gouache painting of a pair of Chaffinches and wrote about them.
“We have been entertained by our avian friends, already showing signs of their beautiful dawn chorus. If a day dawns bright we are already hearing territorial calls of our thrushes, finches and titmice. A finch we see more of during the colder months is the Chaffinch. They move into our garden to take advantage of our three feeding stations. They have not mastered the necessary skills or dexterity required to feed from the feeders so they wait beneath them as others feed and feed on any seeds that drop to the ground.”
I then moved on to look back at previous garden journals from a decade or so ago.
“Looking back at my original Garden Journal I am surprised to read “First mowing of grass! This year our paths and lawn areas are sodden and slippery so far too dangerous to get our mower out.
I read a page alongside, “A pair of Yellowhammers fed today under the feeders catching the crumbs.” We rarely see these beautiful farmland birds any more as the effects of modern farming methods have decimated their numbers. Modern insecticides kill off some of their food and herbicides destroy the banks of wild flowers, the seed heads of which provided the Yellowhammers with sustenance through autumn and winter. There seems to be no will either from Government or the agriculture industry to firstly recognise the problem and secondly to do something about it. Sad!”
I then reported on progress we had made with our recently constructed propagation bench.
In my January entries to my journal I wrote about making a propagating bench in the greenhouse and then in February I looked at how we had prepared the greenhouse in readiness for seed sowing. Now in March we have seedlings showing well.”
Flowering shrubs feature over the next few pages, looking at those that flower and provide scent, starting off with the shrubs in the Ribes family.
“The genus Ribes is a family of some 150 species of shrubs, mainly deciduous with just a few evergreens. We grow 3 species on our allotment to give us Redcurrants, Blackcurrants and Gooseberries. In the ornamental garden at home we grow 5 species and 4 of these are flowering in March, Ribes sanguineum “King Edward VII” and Ribes s. “Elkington White”.
“The other two March flowering Ribes are very different to the Ribes sanguineums. Ribes laurifolium has thick evergreen foliage, each leaf shaped and textured just like those oa a Laurel, hence its name. The flowers at first glance appear white but close up they are pale cream with a hint of green – absolutely beautiful! Beautiful and scented! The final Ribes to flower in March is Ribes speciosum with crimson flowers. To be fair though this Ribes species shows flowers on and off all year. It is generally evergreen for us as we planted it in a sheltered spot. Its flowers are like tiny Fuschias hanging along most of its branches. The downside? Every inch of every stem is covered in thin spines, so pruning can be difficult. On our open days so many visitors ask about Ribes speciosum.”
“In the autumn we took cuttings of Ribes s. King Edward VII. What a surprise we had when one of them produced these pale gentle pink flowers. One more shrub of the Ribes family still has not yet flowered, Ribes odorarum.”
My journal then tells of other unusual flowering shrubs we grow here at Avocet.
“Abnother unusual shrub we grow for March interest is a special willow. Salix gracilistyla melanostachyla has amazing flowers, red and black catkins. Early flying bees love them.”
“Two other March flowering shrubs are grown for their large umbels of flowers but also their scent. The first, Edgeworthia chrysantha grandiflora, has unusual bright yellow flowers which add scent to the late winter and early spring garden. Their second is a Viburnum, Viburnum x burkwoodii, which does not open its flower buds until late March.”
Turn over the page of my journal and you will be delighted by photos of Iris reticulata in all their glorious shades of blue and purple.
“Flower of the month for March has to be Iris reticulata, of which we grow many varieties in various shades of blue and purple.”
My final page for March takes another look at what is going on in the greenhouse as the month comes to an end.
Our next visit to my garden journal will report on what will be happening in our garden at Avocet in April, the month traditionally associated with showers.