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My Garden Journal 2020 – April

Back with my garden journal I will now share with you my pages for April, a strange month as we are in total lock down because of the coronavirus problems. The many sunny warm days allowed us the luxury of leisurely time in the garden and even time for lots of sitting on our several garden benches enjoying coffee and cakes.

On my first page I featured the Kiwi Vine, the climbing plant which opens with beautiful moss green leaf buds which turn a purer green as the days progress. I wrote, “April sprung onto the scene with frost-free nights and days littered with ‘April Showers’, sunshine and sparkling light rain. Leaves change on shrubs, trees and climbers are opening rapidly, changing colour, shape and texture. Our Kiwi Vine has beautiful foliage and we enjoy observing how each bud opens day by day.”

The first batch of photos was taken during the first week of the month.

For the next set of photos I wrote, “The third week of the month and the foliage is fully open and bright green.”

I then moved on to consider some of the gardening tasks we undertook in April. “Gardening tasks  for April included planting Gladioli and Asiatic Lily bulbs in the ‘Hot Garden’ and cutting down our coppiced Cornus shrubs and pollarded Cornus Midwinter Fire.”

“The plants on the nursery shelves have now been potted on and returned refreshed to their shelves.”

“Jude has pricked out the seedlings of early sowings of annuals such as Cosmos and Sweet Peas, and I re-potted my succulents, Salvias and Fuschias” which have had winter protection.”

On the opposite page I revealed my foliage plants of the month, our many Acer palmatums, and I wrote, “Foliage plant of the month is Acer palmatum the wonder of  spring and autumn.”

Tulips featured on the next double page spread where I shared photos of “Tulips – open and closed!”

The final double page spread of this month’s journal features the early Imperial Fritillaries, of which we grow two cultivars and on the opposite page my plant of the month for bark and stems, Cercis siliquastrum.

“Flowering plant of the month for April is the very bright extravagant looking Fritillaria imperialis. We grow just two in our Shrub Garden, F.i. ‘Willliam Rex’ which is a rich orange-red colour with each flower topped in purple, and F. i. ‘Lutea’ a beautiful clear yellow one. But they attract the dreaded Lily Beetles!!”

I created i-Pad paintings of each when in full fat bud and then took photos of them when they had opened up.

I wrote, “Plant of the month for ‘stems and bark, for April is Cercis siliquastrum, a tree that I have chosen not so much for its colour or texture but for its attraction to lichen and its unusual trait of displaying its little cerise flowers directly appearing from its bark.”

“A close-up phot of the bark of the Cercis bark shows its texture and the variety of colour coming from lichens.”

I created a painting of the flower and lichen on a twig of the Cercis, using watercolour pencils, fibre tip pens and watercolour colour washes..

 

 

 

And that is my journal for April so soon I will be starting my May entries.

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My Garden Journal 2019 – April

April is one of our busiest months in our Avocet patch, a month when we are busy, our wildlife colleagues are busy and the plants are growing apace. We have tasks to complete as well as usual garden routines.

As I often do in my journals I began with the weather and wrote, “April burst onto the scene with a crazy few days of weather. The first day, April Fools’ Day, was bright and mild after a frosty start which gave us hope for a few good days for gardening. Sadly this was far from the reality as during the following few days the weather treated us to rain, sleet, snow, hail and freezing winds! Not good for gardening!” I added a few photos of frozen rain after it had settled on the garden.

Frozen rain on the garden was an unexpected event.

 

“Succulents love hot dry areas but look good with hats of snow and ice.”

 

“Pitcher with snow and black lichen.”

“Frozen rain on fresh herbaceous foliage.”

On the page opposite my weather report I considered some of our flowering shrubs that add a fresh dimension to the spring garden.

“April seems to be the month when our collection of flowering shrubs come into their own, many of them will continue to give colour for weeks on end and then delight us with their foliage in summer and autumn and also the addition of berries.” I then shared a set of photos of a few of our spring flowering shrubs.

     

Next I shared a few of our spring tasks around the garden

I wrote, “Our list of “non-plant” jobs continued well into the spring, when we made a new shed, in a bright blue painted sentry-box style, specially to fit in our seaside garden.”

“The flat-packed shed arrived in a box and we soon opened it up and lined up all the pieces in readiness.”

“It took longer to make than expected and the finished shed was a bit flimsier than we would have liked so I will add more structural wooden struts to it.”

On the opposite page I looked at other jobs we undertook in April.

“More jobs to launch a new month ….. Jude created a new insect hotel.”

“We planted potatoes in bags.” “We sowed wildflowers in Arabella’s Garden.”

“Roses on arches needed a trim and some shrubs needed pollarding.”

 

When we turn over the page we see that the next two pages are all about those special flowers of spring, flowering bulbs.

I wrote, “We seem to have more daffodils to enjoy in our garden than ever before, and they soon get the company of tulips joining the Muscari, Leucojum and the little blue flowered bulbs.”

I shared a collection of photos of our tulips on one page and of our daffodils on the opposite page.

“This is just a small selection of our dozens of varieties of tulips spread around our garden.”

   

“Daffodils appear in almost every bed and border, like brightly coloured children’s sweets. The garden becomes a sweet shop of delights.”

Over to the next double page spread we return to the garden tasks we performed during April.

I wrote, “When we host visitors to our garden we sell plants and Jude has established what we call her ‘micro nursery’. We also take plants with us when we give garden talks around counties close to us and in neighbouring Welsh counties. We needed to increase our nursery space as we go out to give talks more and more. I doubled the size of Jude’s herbaceous plant sales shelves. We mostly used re-cycled wood.”

I carried on to the next page saying, “I also created a shrub nursery at the bottom of the garden in the space where our compost was made. We needed space for cuttings in ‘long tom pots’ and the individually potted shrubs.”

“The first job was to get Ian, our garden helper, to bag up our compost ready to be used as a mulch around the many borders.”

“We put up tables to show our shrubs on and put membrane down underfoot.”

“All that is left to do now is to put slate down on the membrane to give a comfortable and attractive surface.” That is a job to be done when we revitalize our central path, replacing slate that has been down for several years so now has a bit too mush soil mixed in, with fresh clean slate mulch. Watch this space!

So once again turning the page the next double page spread features bluebells and Primula auriculas. I wrote of bluebells, “Towards the end of the month the first of our native Bluebells come into flower. They give us a shot of bright blue and enrich the air with their sweet aroma.”

I then shared a couple of i-Pad drawings I attempted to show the vitality of these amazing flowers of spring.

On the page opposite the bluebells I looked at some of our Auriculas, with their unique colour range and combinations. I wrote, The wide range of unique colour combinations, sometimes enriched with a fine ‘meal’, seen in the flowers of Primula auricula are what made these flowers appeal to the enthusiasts and show men in their hayday. Today they are grown more as alpines. Jude bought a tray of mixed seedlings a few years ago and she has selected out some special ones.”

The final page for my journal in April features another popular collectors’ plant, the Hostas, “We love Hostas and grow many with a wide variety of leaf shapes, colours, sizes and variegation patterns in different areas of the garden.”

 “These are some of our miniature and small varieties, surrounded by sharp grit to deter slugs and snails.”

And that is where my April entries into my garden journal came to a conclusion. The next visit to its pages will be in May when the garden should be looking even better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating the Glory of Spring – the garden at a cottage called Cartref

I thought I would look back at a visit we made with friends, Pete and Sherlie in the spring to a garden called Cartref. It was a “pop up” NGS garden which is a garden that opens unplanned but that looks good so the owner wants to share it with other NGS, National Garden Scheme, visitors. It is a way of seeing gardens at their best. It is a new idea so we look forward to seeing if it continues to happen. We certainly hope so as we visited two this spring and loved them both.

We decided to celebrate the glory of spring by visiting this NGS garden, a one acre modern cottage garden with borders, woodland and ponds. The main features of the garden were the lovely colourful collection of tulips which were at their best when we visited.

Throughout the rest of the garden we found relaxed styles of gardening and in places emphasis on enhancing habitats for wildlife and attracting wildlife into the garden. The wildlife pond had an island reached by a narrow wooden bridge.

                 

After this visit to the cottage garden at Cartref we decided that “pop up” open gardens were definitely a good idea because we felt we had seen Cartref at its best.

 

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Return to The Picton Garden

The Picton Garden situated close to the Malvern Hils in Worcestershire, is well known as a garden to visit in late summer through to early autumn, mainly because it holds a national collection of Asters. The vast number of asters grown there are featured among herbaceous plantings with some pretty special shrubs and trees too. We love it at that time of the year but knew after listening to Helen Picton talking that it should be a garden worth visiting throughout its open period.

We decided to make a visit at the beginning of April to see what the garden had to offer at that time of year. We found so much of interest and enjoyed our visit immensely. To the one side of the carpark a small rock garden was in the middle of being developed and already showing plants of interest especially these unusual irises and species tulips.

 

We loved the bright blue gate welcoming us into the garden – very inviting indeed, made even more so by this succulent planter on top of a brick pillar close by.

 

A large pot of very bright tulips set the scene for what was waiting to be discovered on our wanders around the meandering pathways. Here in the gallery below are some of the colourful tulips we found as we walked around. As usual click on first photo and navigate using the arrows.

The beauty of looking around a garden in the spring months is being constantly on the look out for special specimens which can sometimes make us stop, bend over and get a close up look. Here at The Picton Garden there were special tiny plants to get close to as well as many perennials, shrubs and trees, making it a very special spring garden. The younger members of the Picton family are making their mark on these already special gardens and extending the seasons of interest. Take a wander with us along the winding gravel paths as we discover the Picton Garden in April.

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My Garden Journal 2017 – April

We are well into Spring now as I share my April journal with you and there has been lots going on. This April has been the most colourful ever in our Avocet Patch.

The last week in March or the first in April is the best time to cut down willows (Salix)  and dogwoods (Cornus). It is a careful balance between enjoying these shrubs’ beautifully coloured stems for as long as possible and cutting them down in time for fresh coloured stems to grow in time to enjoy next winter. I wrote, “Before taking the Dogwood and Willow stems to be made into community compost, I decided to attempt to draw them in fibre tip pens.” Collecting them together and then selecting a bunch to draw emphasises the wide variety in colours these shrubs produce.

In complete contrast we look at brightly coloured flowering bulbs over the next two pages.

I wrote, “Bulbs continue to give brightness and colour at ground level in the garden this month but above them trees and shrubs perform equally well.”

Below I shared photographs of small flowering bulbs all coloured blue, what I labelled “The “lbj’s” of the bulb world – the little blue jobs.”

    

“One of the most beautiful and brightest of all Spring bulbs is a native in the UK after becoming naturalised. It grows in the South, Central and Eastern parts of England and scattered thinly around Scotland. It must give flowers that are as bright as yellow can become and it is scented too. Tulipa sylvestris.”

   

Returning to the shrubs and trees I wrote on the next double page spread, So, what sort of performances are our trees and shrubs putting on above the bright flowering bulb?”

“Amelanchier lamarckii”

 

“Spiraea arguta”

 

“Viburnum in variety”

 

“Ribes odoratum”

 

“Mahonia aquifolium”

 

“Ribes sanguineum King Edward VII”

“Fruit blossom”

  

On the next turn of the page we notice two pages about my favourite tree, Betulas (Birches)

I began by writing, “As our Birch trees grow we have to occasionally prune off some lower branches to create a specimen clean-trunked tree. When I recently took off two branches of our Betula albosinensis septentronalis, I kept a few lengths for me to paint or draw.” I created a picture using fibre pens and watercolours.

I continued, “By mid-April our Betula are all at different stages of realisation that spring has arrived. Some are almost in full leaf while others still have tight buds, some have long catkins, others none at all.”

    

I then moved on to reveal my plant of the month for April and on the opposite page looked at some of our April flowering Clematis.

“Plant of the month, April, is Corylopsis spicata, a flowering shrub with a beautiful habit of growth and beautiful pale yellow flowers, almost lemon shades, which hang in racemes as light as a feather so shimmer and dance in the gentlest of Spring breezes. The flowers are gently, sweetly scented. Our shrub at 2 metres tall is probably fully grown. It grows with an open “airy” habit.”

  

“April sees our early flowering Clematis putting on their show, with delicate hanging bells of calmness.”

   

Tulips feature on the next double page spread, with photographs of a small selection of the many tulips we grow.

“Tulips are the powerhouse of the April borders here at our Avocet patch, giving bright, shining patches of colour from white, to pink and purple and from yellow through orange to the deepest reds. Some are plain, others striped, splashed or streaked for added interest. In Spring clashing colours seem not to matter. Tulips add colour to every border! Enjoy the show!”

         

The final two pages of my April entries in my journal feature Acers and a few very special plants.

“Acers spring to life during this month giving wild splashes of colour from their freshly opened buds. Every shade of green with the colours of fire!”

    

I shall finish my April entries with a look at a selection of a few of our special plants, those plants that are not often seen and in our garden demand a closer look.

“Akebia quinata”

“Muckdenia Crimson Fans”

“Erythronium Pagoda”

“Jeffersonia Dubia”

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My Garden Journal 2016 – April

Here we are with my April look at my garden journal. I began as I often do with a look at the weather that was affecting our garden.

“April is known for its showery weather and we hope it is the first frost-free weeks of the year. This will allow us to begin hardening off our delicate plants that have hidden away in our greenhouse and summerhouse. Looking back at my first garden journal I notice that in early April birds were then showing signs of nest building. I wrote …Spring is here! Sometimes at least. Birds are collecting nesting materials, blackbirds, greenfinches and all the Titmice family.” This year birds are singing and calling well but we have seen no signs of nest building activities. The Titmice have given up their earlier explorations of our many birdboxes. We hope Spring will catch up and get wildlife stirring again.”

Over the page I continue by looking at one member of the Titmice family, the Coal Tit, and I included one of my gouache paintings of these active little birds.

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“One of our members of the Titmice family that we enjoy sharing our garden  with is the tiny Coal Tit, growing to only 10cm or so in length. They are very lively little birds and most entertaining in the garden. They are frequent visitors to feeders where they enjoy peanuts and mixed seeds. They never stay long on a feeder but remove a morsel of food by rapid beak banging and take it off to eat in a nearby tree or shrub. They hold a nut or seed between their claws and chip away at it, eating tiny pieces.”

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On the page opposite I take a look at the bright Tulips in our garden and what they add to it.

“Early April right through to late on in the month the greens of fresh growth are so bright but our multitude of Tulips add contrasting colours. They add their special charm to every part of the garden. Hundreds were planted throughout the Autumn so now we reap the rewards.”

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Tulips and other bulbs continue to be featured on my next couple of pages.

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“The delicacy of these little white species Tulips with their egg yolk yellow centres are so different to the big bright cultivars.”

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“But it isn’t just Tulips! Many other bulbs look equally beautiful scattered throughout the borders.”

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Turning the page we find a much wordier look with an odd photo to illustrate the words, followed by a look at some of our Acers.

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“April is the month  when we discover the joy of working in the garden into the evening hours. We are no longer forced indoors at teatime by the poor light. Some days also allow us to shed jackets and even jumpers as the temperatures feel more comfortable. But April can bring surprises such as overnight frosts and this year a very late snow shower. Hail storms chased us indoors on many occasions. But Spring still marches on and gives freshness of growth, new bright foliage on trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials.”

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“The freshest foliage of all must be from our Acer shrubs. They unfurl their buds and give a multitude of shades of yellow, orange, ruby and green. Even though this happens every year and we look forward to it, the new life of our Acers delights us.”

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I then look at yellow in our garden.

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“Throughout the Spring months yellow is the colour that picks up the bright light of the sun best of all the bright colours. This may be why we love Daffodils so much, but many more flowers show off in the brightness of April.”    

 

  

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“There are also a few pinks that look special in the Spring garden and these are at their best with interestingly coloured and textured foliage as partners.”

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Blossom and the plants of cool shade appear on the final couple of my journal’s pages for April.

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“Shrewsbury, our nearest town, is famous for its Spring blossom which lines many of its streets and lanes. In our garden we can equally enjoy the blossom of both ornamental and productive trees and shrubs.”

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“We love the sunshine in the April garden when all around us the garden sparkles and shines. But dip into the cool of the shade and there are gems awaiting us. Foliage is the key where sunlight fails to infiltrate.”

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But any flowers that accompany this amazing foliage are tiny little star-like flowers.

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So that is April in our garden. We now look forward to what May will bring!