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My Garden Journal 2017 – March

The weathermen tell us that March is the first month of Spring so in this our third look at my 2017 Garden Journal we shall see if our garden illustrates this idea at all.

As an introduction to the month I wrote,”March is the month that should come in like a lion and go out like a lamb”. This year it came in like a wet fish! Rain and wind dominated, interspersed with occasional bright cheerful days. In the first week we managed very few gardening moments. But the Avocet patch will not be beaten, with leaf and flower buds bursting on trees and shrubs, signs of colour waiting in the wings.”

“Bursting blooms”! I continued by sharing photos of flowers bursting from buds.

     

 “Unfurling foliage!” And more of foliage escaping their bursting buds.

       

Turing over the page reveals a look at our Fritillaries, Fritillaria meleagris and Fritillaria uva vulpis which grow in our Spring Garden and in Arabella’s Garden.

I write among my  photos of Fritillaries,  “Fantastic Fritillaries – a March marvel! 

I looked for all the common local names for this Fritillary. “Our native Fritillary also known as Fritillaria meleagris is a plant of many names.”

 

“Snake’s Head Fritillary – Chequered Lily.”

 

“Chess Flower – Leper Lily” – Lazurus Bell”

 

“Guinea-Hen Flower” –  “Frog Cup”

 

“Drooping Tulip” – “Chequered Daffodil”

We grow our native Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris in our “Spring Garden”, but we also grow Fritillaria uva vulpis with flowers that are so different inside and out.

 

“Purple and yellow on the outside.”

“Yellow, orange and red on the inside.”

 

Over onto the next double page spread and I take a look at a special rather subtle plant combination and some early tulips.

I wrote that “Good plant companions and communities are what lifts a garden above a collection of plants put on display. Sometimes two beautiful special plants with strong attributes of their own shine out even more when joined  together to produce a harmonious pairing, each enhancing the other. Here, I feature the combination of a Hebe “Red Edge” and a Prunus, P. “Kojo No Mai”. The blushing of the Hebe foliage is a perfect foil for the “washing powder white” of the Prunus’ petals.”

   

Moving on to look at some of our species tulips, I wrote, “The tiny flowers of our many species Tulips are now putting in an appearance, impressing with their delicacy and subtlety. The blooms open with the sun and close with its disappearance.”

   

Next we move on to my plant of the month for March. I wrote.

My plant of the month for March is a Celandine called “Brazen Hussey”, a chance find by Christopher Lloyd discovered in a clump of our native Celandine in a lane near his home. Our native Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria brightens up our hedgerows with its deeply glossy foliage and yellow “Buttercup” flowers, while “Brazen Hussey” sports glossy purple-black foliage. 

 

“We grow a small patch of our native Celandine but as it can become very invasive it has to be strictly controlled.”

“We grow several other Celandines too because they are such cheerful addictions to the Spring Garden, a white cultivar, Ranunculus fiscaria “Randall’s White …………….”

“….. a pale yellow flower against bronzed foliage ……”

 

“……. a Giant Celandine and a Green Celandine.”

On the next double page spread we look at our new summerhouse and a selection of special small flowers.

Concerning the summerhouse I wrote, “As we put the finishing touches to our new summerhouse birds are busy gathering nest materials, with many setting up home in the nestboxes we provide for them. The first of our summer migrants are back, the little warbler, the Chiffchaff with its distinctive and repetitive call and the Little Owl calling out in the evening like a yapping Jack Russell Terrier. As we work in the garden the larger of our birds of prey, Buzzards and Red Kites enjoy the thermals overhead, often stooping low over our heads. In contrast our smallest bird of prey, the diminutive Merlin rushes through the garden at head height or lower disturbing the resident Blackbirds.

On the opposite page I looked at those special little flowering plants that catch the gardener’s eye at this time of the gardening year. In other seasons when the garden is rich in flowers these special little gems may get overlooked in favour of the bigger, bolder and brighter cousins. I wrote, “At this time of year every small flower is extra special and deserving of our closest attention.”

 

Hacquetia epipactus and Iris reticulata “George”

“Daphne mezerium.”

 

Erysimum Red Jep”

Assorted Pulmonaria.”

The next turn of the page reveals a page about Primulas and the next about pollarding willows and dogwoods.

I wrote,”In February I wrote about the first of our native Primroses coming into flower, but in March they flourish along with their relatives.The pictures below show the diversity that we grow and enjoy.”

    

   

 

When I looked at pollarding and coppicing I wrote that, “The last week of March were mild and sometimes sunny so we took the opportunity to prune down our shrubs that we grow for their coloured stems, Cornus and Salix. We coppice some, pollard others.”

    

I continued to look at Salix and Cornus coloured stems on the last page of my entries for March, where I featured photographs of the bundles of cut stems.

      

So that was my garden journal for March. For the next month, April, we will see big changes as Spring becomes established.

 

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A Fritillary Meadow – North Meadow, Cricklade

We have a book at home where we list places we must go to, gardens we must visit and things we must do. A visit to the Fritillary Meadows in Wiltshire has been on our “Places to Visit” list for a few years now but we have been thwarted by the weather and the effect this has on these lovely flowering bulbs. This year we made it.

We drove down to Cricklade in Wiltshire and with great difficulty due to heavy downpours of rain making it hard to see, we found the first signs of where we were aiming for, The Fritillary Tearooms. The tearooms open each year when the Fritallaries are in full bloom and the proceeds go towards boosting the “Cricklade in Bloom” funds. Naturally we had to support them and so enjoyed a warming cup of coffee and a splendid cake before we embarked on our wet walk around the wet meadow. Apologies for the sloping photo of the tea shop but having one leg shorter than the other does sometimes result in strange sloping pics!

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We entered the reserve, called North Meadow, run jointly by English Nature and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, via a bridge over the River Churn, one of the two rivers that skirt the wet meadow, the other being the Thames. In front of us lay an old, flower-rich hay meadow situated within the glacial flood plains of the two rivers. The meadow covers a vast area of 108 acres. It is designated a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Scientific Interest and is an internationally important reserve.

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We were never far from one or other river as we walked the reserve margins. It was good to see beautiful ancient pollarded willows much in evidence aligning the banks of both. Seeing these brings back memories of my childhood fishing my local brook “The Carrant” whose banks were lined with them. We hid inside them as many were hollow and loved looking up inside them spotting wildlife mostly spiders and beetles but on special occasions a roosting Tawny Owl. The willows were pollarded which involved pruning them hard back to their main trunks every few years to harvest the stems for basket making and hurdle manufacture.

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The reserve was one grand immense flat meadow which is flooded for a few months each year creating an unusual habitat for plants and all sorts of wildlife. At first glance we were amazed at the expanse of the meadow but somewhat disappointed at the relatively few numbers of Fritillaries visible. Seeing just one Fritillary is a treat though as it is such an unusual and beautiful flower. It is now sadly a “nationally scarce” plant.

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Even though the light was very dull we soon spotted more of the little beauties we had waited so long to see and realised that there were far more than we had first thought. We grow Fritillaria meleagris in our spring border at home and in the orchard meadows on the allotment communal gardens but we had never seen them growing in their true wild habitat, the wetland meadows. We wondered just how amazing they must look on a bright day. To begin with we found them in small clumps including the odd white flowers which although lacking the checkerboard patterning have a delicate beauty of their own.

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This wetland meadow habitat was home to other site specific species such as Comfrey and Kingcups, Lady’s Smock and Ragged Robin. Lovely old fashioned names for our native wildflowers. To maintain the special requirements of this collection of damp loving plants it is essential that the meadow is managed properly. It has to be grazed, used for hay and flooded for set periods.

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We were surprised to find one comfrey with yellow and green variegated foliage.

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Along the margins of the meadow we stumbled upon these little carved stones, looking like miniature milestones. We later found out that they marked the plots allotted to individual “commoners” for haymaking.

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As we reached about two-thirds of the way around the meadow the density of the fritillaries increased markedly and tall reeds grew on its margins.

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The last part of our wander around this wet meadow was alongside the river once again where Willow and Blackthorn trees grew happily in the damp soils.

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In a very damp patch we came across a clump of this very unusual looking sedge with its jet black flowers thus finishing off our visit to the field of Fritillaries with a mystery as we had no idea what it was.

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As we left the reserve we just had to stop and admire this old and very unusual toll cottage.

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