This spring has, of course, been like no other. With most of the world on lockdown we have retreated to our homes and I hope many of you have found sanctuary there. I won’t dwell on the situation, just to say I hope all is well with you and you are managing to stay in touch with your loved ones. Nature has carried on regardless and I’ve been doing my best to keep up! This spring wildlife seems more abundant, bird song seems louder, or perhaps it’s just having the time at home to appreciate it. Just yesterday two young hares hopped into our courtyard – something I have never seen before.
We’ve had a very dry spring so far here in Somerset and on Tuesday the rain finally arrived, washing the dust off leaves and giving the plants a much needed drink. April showers bring May flowers! I have been trying not to water, just restricting myself to newly planted plants and seeds. I think most things have survived thanks to a generous mulch of manure from our local farmer (I think we have moved in excess of 20 tonnes this winter!). The spring bulbs such as the narcissi and tulips have been beautiful this year – I have trialled new varieties and have loved all of them, below are some of my favourites.
These have been bolstered in the cutting garden by foliage from shrubs and early annuals and biennials such as Cerinthe major var. purpurescens (honeywort), scented stocks, lilac, wallflowers and honesty. I’ve also been cutting from my wild patch – an area of disturbed ground remaining from our building work when we converted the barns. Here flourishes red campion, cow parsley, valerian and alkanet. This area has been earmarked for my new studio and greenhouse this coming autumn but I will try my best to retain some of the wild patch. I’ve had beautiful ranunculus and anemones from the polytunnel but now the outdoor plants are just getting going as well as the colibri poppies so I hope to share some pictures of these next month. The dahlias are all waking up and poking their heads out of the soil. I’ve also just picked my first sweet peas and the smell is heavenly, taking me right back to last summer.
Flowers becoming available in May will include:
· Icelandic/colibri poppies
· Californian poppies
· Peonies (very limited)
· Sweet peas
I have been offering local no contact deliveries and collections of flowers both to local private customers and to florists. Often, they are a gift sent by a loved one who cannot be with the recipient and the surprise and delight they elicit is lovely to witness. This coming month marks the start of Friday flowers – a subscription service for a regular bunch of flowers delivered either weekly or fortnightly. For more details see the website, we also have bouquet and bucket subscriptions which would make lovely gifts.
Aside from the flowers we have also been planning and planting a new fruit and vegetable garden – since I have been gradually taking over the old one for flowers. The first bed has gone in and is already brimming full of seedlings – peas, beans, carrots, lettuce, rocket, spring onions and fennel so far. The squash are growing up a bit more in the polytunnel before being planted out in May. The orchard is looking beautiful with the apples in blossom and we are planning more ways to establish wild flowers here under the trees. Just down the lane from us there is a very old Somerset cider orchard which is just stunning at the moment, full of blossom and fringed with cow parsley, with little lambs leaping around beneath the trees. More on the lambs next month…! I will leave you with some of my favourite Instagram accounts to follow, full of inspiration and beautiful images for you to peruse:
· @nigel.dunnett – has the most beautiful garden and ideas to make wildlife friendly areas out of recycled materials.
· @arnemaynardgardendesign – Arne’s garden at Allt-y-bela is beautiful and productive.
· @mccormickcharlie – Another gorgeous vegetable and cutting garden with a stunning dahlia border.
· @isabella.tree – author of ‘Wilding’ and pioneer of a huge rewilding project at Knepp Estate.
· @thenewtinsomerset – one of my first places to visit when we are allowed out again, this garden is beautiful, and the cider and food delicious. The head chef has just shared his recipe for nettle soup so in theory we could be self sufficient on that for several months!
· @gardenmasterclass – are currently running a series of free tea-time seminars by a whole host of brilliant speakers.
· @flowersfromthefarm – a network of UK flower farmers and florists, each week a different member takes over to share their stories and photos so there is always a new perspective.