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April 2003

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Wind chill, spring bulbs, Lathyrus vernus and wowing the lawn

Another lazy winter is long past and as usual I'm now repenting daily. It was indeed a harsh, unrelenting season when cold winds alternated with downpours of heavy rain, causing some heavy plant losses. I've finally decided that the Canary borage, Echium pininana, is too tender for growing in the open here, although one plant in a particularly sheltered position managed to survive. Damage from cold winds seemed particularly severe - ‘wind chill factor' has assumed nightmare status both for my plants and myself!

Some seeds I sowed one cold January day are germinating, a positive sign for future years. Mostly I concentrated on sowing alpine plants this year. Although there has been enormous growth in plant availability at garden centres the supply of alpines is relatively poor. In contrast even the latest new perennial hybrids are hitting the Irish market almost as soon as they appear on the television shows.

Since I came here I've been planting daffs and other spring bulbs. They are absolutely essential to clear away the winter blues. It does take a few years to create a furnished feeling in the spring garden. After four years the numbers have now increased to a comfortable level. Easiest of all, for some perhaps too easy is Crocus tommasinianus. It spreads into large clumps in a few years and in a shaft of sunlight on a bleak day reminds one of the joys of gardening. I particularly like the rosy form C. tommasinianus roseus. Equally attractive and easy are the dwarf anemones; A. blanda and A. nemorosa never fail to charm and the lavender blue A. nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana' is a particular favourite of mine. These are quite happy in some shade.

Since I came here I've been planting daffs and other spring bulbs.

Two small members of the pea family which brighten up the spring garden are Lathyrus vernus and Lathyrus aureus , the former purplish, appearing in several variations and the latter being an unusual and striking gold colour. The small aquilegias, too, are easy and give a good splash of colour in spring. They interbreed cheerfully and the mongrels are often more attractive than the pure-bred.

Despite some long-term fretting and quite a lot of work my lawns are still somewhat lacking in the wow factor. To tell the truth they mostly look pretty neglected. It's not so much the slopes and hollows, which I rather like; it's the moss, the weeds and the coarse grasses which offend. This year I'm making a strong bid to upgrade and am already feeding regularly through a diluter on the end of the hosepipe. Neither the garden nor the gardener look quite as radiant as the man on the television ads, but at least I'm seriously trying.

 

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