Patience, nerve and skill
Like many gardeners April was the month of great hope for getting the growing season off to flying start. Instead the coldest and driest April for around a 100 years brought a test of nerve and patience to the normal acts of sowing seed, potting on, planting out, harvesting early crops and wondering when will things grow. While my vegetables I planted out in March did not grow much I did manage to harvest some good radishes, a little spinach and lettuce (thanks to the fleece they were growing under) and pea shoots and salad grown in the greenhouse in April. So May arrived with greater hope only to be greeted with yet more frost, then gales, finally some rain, cool temperatures and finally warmth.
The weather though proved a great reminder and test of my horticultural skill and knowledge; reading the ground and weather conditions and knowing your plants as to what action to take and when. With warm weather ahead things will soon catch up. Every cloud though has a silver lining the cooler temperatures have prolonged spring blossom and flowers. The garden is about 2-3 weeks behind a normal year, not that there are many of those now.
It did give me the opportunity to make a few late decisions on moving, dividing and adding new plants to various parts of the garden, but mostly in my woodland border. I was finally able to position the white Camassias I had grown in pots from last autumn, and add more Succisella inflexa ‘Frosted Pearls’ (a close relative of our native devils bit scabious) a fantastic plant I spotted at the Sussex Prairie Garden Sussex Prairie Garden - A stunning prairie in the heart of Sussex (sussexprairies.co.uk) last summer and had toughed it out in my cold, dark woodland border over the winter.
I have also decided to try again with a fantastic umbelliferous perennial flower, Molopospermum poleoponassicum (what a name) from the Spanish mountains with fern like foliage and incredible flowers, so I will look forward to whether it succeeds or not. I also added a dwarf hop to cover up the last remaining fence panel, these can be vigorous but with various uses as plant it should be an interest trial.
I have also decided to start growing more perennial plants from seed so I can source the varieties I want, at a cheaper cost, certainty they aren’t treated with herbicides and just to challenge my skills. So I am trying my hand at Angelica gigas (Korean Angelica), Lunaria rediviva (perennial honesty), Aquilegia vulgaris (Grannys Bonnets), Deschampsia cespitosa (Tussock Grass), a variety of foxgloves and molopospermum. Some of these have now taken residence in my fridge to give them a period of chilling to break the dormancy of the seed before bring in to the warmth. I am optimistic by nature but we will see and it may take 12 months or more for some to germinate!
When we moved to our house I made a great effort to propagate a number of box hedging plants, which are slow to grow. I did this knowing the plant is now very susceptible to box blight and damage by the box tree moth caterpillar. I thought I was far enough south to miss out on being hit by the moth. It arrived last summer causing a reasonable amount of damage and I went to great effort to hand pick all the caterpillar off to prevent further damage. This spring it has arrive again affecting 5 plants so far… these have been removed but I will look to use a biological control bacillus thungeriensis which is a microorganism that will kill the caterpillars for the two likely further broods that will occur in July and September. It’s frustrating as I have seen no neighbours plants affected.