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My Garden Journal 2020 – March

This is already the third visit to my Garden Journal 2020 and this month is officially the start of spring. On the first day for March I wrote, “March, the month when we are informed by the Met Office, marks the start of spring, from the first day in fact. This seems so inappropriate as the only true signs of new seasons are the changes in the weather and in plants. We are having a few bright days early in March but we still wake to hard frosts sometimes. In the garden we are beginning to see signs of spring, opening leaf buds that give brightest greens or deep reds and purples.”


On the next page I wrote, “They say of March, ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’, an old-wives’ tale. The end of February was all ‘lion-like’ and so we spent the first week of March helping our house and garden recover from the damage wreaked by  three violent storms.”

“Two specimen trees were flattened as were climber-covered trellises. Fence panels were destroyed and our back gate escaped from its hinges”

“Hard work every day for a week soon had us looking reasonably ‘ship-shape’. The fences and trellis were replaced with stronger versions and some trees were upright once again.”

Over the page we get colourful as we feature spring bedding primulas. “March gives us plenty of colour from short-growing flowering primulas and shrubs. Our native Primroses are our true favourite but this year we have added a few bedding primulas for extra colour. The other single flowers are self-seeded crosses relating to our original primroses plus other herbaceous hardy primulas.”

Next I looked at garden tasks we had to get done in March. “Tasks in the garden in March included planting a new long thin border at the bottom of our drive. The border is part in our garden and part in our neighbours. We planted a variety of thymes, low-growing sedum, plus small carex grasses and other succulents.

“Our Cercis siliquastrum is back upright once again! Ian our garden helper giave the lawn its first cut, while Jude treated our trellises with organic algae remover.”


“A new pot of foliage plants is planted up with small foliage shrubs with a carex for added texture.”

Over onto the next double page spread I looked at coloured stems and bark. I wrote, “Probably the star of our garden in winter and early spring is Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire” which we grow as pollards. So we get the brightest of stems possible in shades of yellow, coral, oranges and reds. At the end of the month we will cut it back to its knobbly heads.”

I included a print of an i-Pad sketch of Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ and a photo taken last April showing the same shrub after pollarding.

On the opposite page I continued, “Stem and bark plants of the month for March are acers. We grow a few dozen different acers in our garden, both shrubs and trees. When we buy a new one we look jointly at leaf colour and shape as well as bark interest be it colour pattern or texture.”

The four photos of the acers are from left to right in top row, we have

Acer ‘George Forrest’, Acer palmatum.

The bottom row from left to right shows another Acer palmatum and Acer pectinatum.

The page included my set of 3 crayon sketches of Acer sango kaku.

The final double page spread for March looks at our “Foliage plant of the month” and the “Flowering plant of the month”.

The final page for March features my ‘flowering plant of the month, which is pulmonaria. I wrote, “These little gems of late winter into early spring give us flowers of pink, white and blue, with some flowers showing off by displaying pinks and blues on the same flower heads. There are many more still to flower and develop their distinctive foliage too.”

I then shared nine photos illustrating just a few of our pulmonarias.


The final page for this month features a few more garden tasks we have completed, “The last week or so of March gave us a real treat, bright blue skies and warmth, so we took the opportunity to get a few more tasks completed.”

“We planted up our water garden in a bowl, which Ian our helper, prepared back in February. We had to get it level first though – quite a challenge! We planted it up with 5 plants – Iris ‘Black Gamecock’, Isolepsis cernua, Nymphaea ‘Snow Princess’, the oxygenator Ceratophyllum demersum and a tiny bullrush Typha minima.”

“We cleared areas of grass so that we could sow a wildflower seed mix to create little areas of meadow and we potted on the perennials on our nursery shelves.”


So that is my garden journal entries for March – we shall open its pages again for April.

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Spring bulbs at Avocet

This time of year is made extra special as the bulbs we planted in the autumn start to burst into flower. Daffodils give splashes of every shade of yellow often with orange trumpets. We have a few whites left from the hundreds we inherited. We are not keen on white daffs as they seem so wishy-washy so we dug out hundreds leaving just odd clumps. Crocus are far more delicate and come in a wider range of colours from white to yellow, orange and purple. Anemone blandas are joining these now and appear as delicate blue daisies among the fresh growth of perennial plants. We don’t have many hyacinths but the few we have are most welcome and remind us to order more next autumn. You may spot the interloper – the flowers of a bergenia – walking past I could not resist taking its picture!

The best way to savour the effects that our bulbs have on our March garden is to come with me with my camera and see what we spot. So follow the gallery by clicking on the first photo and then use the arrows to navigate. Enjoy!


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Simply beautiful Pulmonarias

We grow a couple of dozen pulmonarias in the shadier parts of our garden, where they give both interestingly marked leaves and plenty of flowers in pinks, blues and white. We have lots in flower now, mid-March but several others will flower in the coming weeks.

I hope you enjoy my gallery of those that are flowering now. To follow the gallery just click on the first photo then navigate using the arrows.


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Simply Beautiful -10

Sometimes two plants flower side by  side and enhance each other so much. The whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.

Complementary colours blue and yellow present great partnerships. A blue Anemone blanda teamed up with a native Primrose stops me in my tracks every day as I wander along the grass path by the Spring Garden, they are simply perfect together.

They mingle happily with old garden tool bits we dug out of the ground when we first developed our garden.

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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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My Garden Journal in 2016 – March

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.”

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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!

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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.”

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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.”

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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”.

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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.”

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“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.”


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“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.”

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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.”

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My final page for March takes another look at what is going on in the greenhouse as the month comes to an end.


“In our greenhouse our sowings of seeds of vegetables, perennials and a few annuals have continued to germinate well and grow strongly. We have pricked out many tiny seedlings into cells.”winchester-03-2 winchester-06-2

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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.

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My Garden Journal – March

As we entered the month of March we looked forward to increased temperatures both during the daytime and at night .We thought with luck the danger of frosts would be diminishing, although  this year we have had few to talk of and none deep enough to cause many problems.

So let’s have a look at my Garden Journal for the month of March.

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“Early in March we treated ourselves to two new Hellebore hybrids to add to our dozens already adding colour to our borders”

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One displays simple single deepest red flowers and the other pale green petals edged with a picotee fringe in deep plum and in the centre a similarly coloured collar of petals. Let’s  look at the simpler one first.

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In complete contrast the “colarette” Hellebore shows so much more colour and variation.

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Pleased as we were with our new purchases we were even more pleased to find a chance seedling Hellebore which has sneaked its way into our Rill Garden. The problem is that it has settled in tight into the base of the stone wall of our raised pool. “We were also surprised to discover a beautiful new self-crossed hybrid in the Rill Garden. Each petal is a subtle combination of blush pinks and pale greens, its centre the deepest yellow.” It really needs moving out to replant it where it can be appreciated properly. This photo shows it in its chosen home. We love it for its subtle combination of pink and green with delicate spots, and of course for choosing our garden to grow in. What do you think of it?

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My journal moves on to look at the first tulip of the year, this beautiful species one with such unusual colour combinations within its petals. “Our first tulip is out, a beautiful deep red-blue colour. Each bloom is so delicate it seems the gentlest breeze will disperse its petals.”

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I reveled in the challenge of representing its flower, shaped like the flame of a candle, in watercolours with pen and ink detailing. I had great fun mixing so many tints of blues and reds together and even brought in a touches of green.

The bird life at Avocet starred next in my journal. “Wrens and Robins are becoming dominant in the garden. Robins are developing territorial traits resulting in chasing and flouncing. The nimble Wren hunts in every nook, crack and cranny for insects, spiders and their eggs. They still roost together in the pouches we have, scattered throughout our garden. Soon they will be considering them as potential nesting places.”  It will be interesting to observe the changes in behaviour and attitudes towards each other when this change of emphasis occurs.

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I quoted a further passage from Jenny Joseph, “March is certainly coming in like a lion – a roaring beast. After the gale had torn wider and wider the covering to the sky to let the blue in, it was a bright sunny enticing outside world.” In my journal I wrote But for us here in Shropshire we have had no strong winds at all, just sunny days alternating with cloudy damp days and cold nights.” But March was to prove these words to be dreadfully premature, for as the month was preparing the way for April to follow in its footsteps we did indeed get gales lasting several days and taking us into April. This strange atypical weather isn’t helping the garden, and definitely not helping us as we prepare for our first opening for the year on 16th April. I noted this in the journal, “This is confusing the garden. It doesn’t know which way to turn. Plants are behind where they should be. Few Tulips or Daffs have displayed their blooms. Leaves on the Acers are showing little inclination to burst from their buds.”

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As my journal closes for March we are preparing for our April opening and we could do with some help from the weather and from Mother Nature herself! We can only wait as spectators and see what April brings with it.

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A Wander Around Our Garden in March

This is the third of the garden wandering posts already. Why is this year going so quickly? Could it be that we have had so many days when the weather has been amenable to gardening? So what is happening here in our garden? The bulbs are at last flowering well after such a slow start but in contrast the birds are responding quickly to warmer periods of weather. Robins are nesting in the box on my fishing tackle shed, House Sparrows are using three boxes around the garden, Great Tits are using the box on the summer-house and Blue Tits have started building in the box opposite the front door. They are so busy! Blackbirds are collecting moss from the lawns and dried grass stems from the borders so are nesting somewhere close by. The early morning bird song gets louder and more birds join in the chorus each day.

We have spent most sunny days continuing to clear borders, cutting down and adding new mulch. Clearing the “Beth Chatto Garden” is a hands and knees job. Jude the “Undergardener” pulls up weed seedlings by hand. Very tedious but made more enjoyable by the constant song of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins. Calls of Buzzards high above us provide a good excuse to stop occasionally.

In the front garden Euphorbias are bursting into growth and some have already sent up their flower stalks curling over like shepherds’ crooks. New growth on the later ones is showing bright colours as they emerge from the bark mulch.

The flowering quince at the end of the drive is covered in bright red blooms scattered amongst its thorny angular network of stems – it will flower for months giving a warm welcome to visitors.

At last our first daffodils are fully in flower! We have waited so long. Muscari are also now bursting into bloom adding their own shade of blue all around the garden.

The Primroses we grew from seed a few years ago now give us big clumps of flower in their own special shade of yellow. They are self seeding and spreading around the garden, with an occasional plant producing flowers of an extraordinary shade of greyish pinky. Not sure I like them!

One of the delights of this time of year are the Pulmonarias with their flowers coloured pink and blue on the same plant and their beautifully marked hairy leaves.

Helleborus have featured in both the January and February garden wanderings and they are still going strong. Two of the last ones to come into flower are this red hybrid and the magnificent near black variety. It looks good in bud and full flower and has the added attraction of interesting foliage. The clump of mixed Hellebores in the “Chicken Garden” give us plenty to look at on coffee breaks when the March sun bursts through and its warmth feels so good on our backs.

The bees appreciate the early flowering bulbs especially purple crocuses but soon they will be flocking to feed on the Flowering Currant, the exceptionally large flowered variety Ribes sanguineum King Edward VII, which is on the point of bud burst. The buds on the Daphne bhulua “Jacqueline Postill” have opened to reveal highly scented flowers in several shades of pink.

March in the garden is full of promises with buds developing and preparations underway for the productive garden. The photos show buds of Clematis, both climbing and herbaceous, and Apples and Pears.

The Sempervivum in the alpine troughs and on the slate scree bed are all budding up nicely but one pure white-flowered one is out and glowing in the March sunlight. They are such precious little jewels of plants.

Our two newest areas of the garden, the Chicken Garden and the Secret Garden, are turning glaucous green with Allium leaves. One area is like a lawn of Allium. They seem to enjoy our soil too much and are spreading and self seeding madly!

The productive side of our gardening mostly happens on our allotment but we have a big greenhouse in the back garden where we start off many of the veggie plants. Some seedlings have germinated in the propagator and lots cells and 5 inch pots are full of compost ready for us to sow peas, broad beans and sweet peas.

In our raised wicker beds just outside the back door the cut-and-come-again salad leaves are almost ready for the first cutting – and of course the first eating. So many different textures, colours and tastes! Delicious! Much is still to happen in March and on into April.

Our Comfrey patch is showing strong growth. This is one of the most important areas of the garden for in this 2ft by 10ft bed we grow a comfrey variety called Bocking 14, which we can cut 4 or 5 times a year. The leaves can be put in the bottom of potato trenches before we plant the potatoes to feed them and prevent the disease “Scab”. We also put them as a mulch under fruit trees and bushes as a feed and as a weed suppressant, and use them to make a liquid feed mixed with nettles.

So much is still to happen in the March garden.  It is a busy and exciting month. So much to look forward to.