30th January
These pages are a rolling diary of the changes and events in the garden for the year 2023 in words and pictures.
January to April
Not a great start to 2023 in the polytunnel. After the carrot and parsnip leaves disappeared we discovered that the wood mice had eaten the roots of the crops as well. And had all the parsley plants. We have dug everything useable up apart from the last remaining swede and cleaned up what the mice left for us. The mice seem to have made a particular target of the raised bed, the soil gets very dry and is easy to burrow through. The trap has caught several now and there is nothing left for them to eat anyway, but we need to guard against this happening again. 21 January and one hole has become two. Also the voles are involved - caught one of those in the trap too. Seem to be taking the parsnips now one by one.
3 February was fine and allowed us both to help our gardener to start clearing the weeds and brambles from the bed beneath the trees in the protected area. Plan is to put a small hard standing with a pair of seats under the trees and put woodland plants in the surrounding ground. The box plants came from the gunpowder store bed years back and have survived despite serious neglect.
In the week after this prunus was planted in summer 2020 the deer ripped the branch on the left so badly it hung straight down. We repaired it with wire ties and some soft plastic hoping it would recover and graft back on. Pity we didn’t think to look more closely sooner than 6 February this year as the tree has grown around the wires. Still the graft looks to be good and the trunk will close up the gaps. We hope.
18 February, the spring bulbs planted around the cleared base of big beech are looking good. Rabbits seem to have seen off most of the cyclamen planted there though.
The two years previous to 2023 gave us frog spawn in February but no other signs of activity. This year has been gratifyingly different with many frogs splashing around in both ponds, and on 19 February we saw the first spawn in the top pond. It has been much colder this February which may be why the spawn is a bit later than last year.
The big straggly pieris sat underneath Big Prunus has really improved this year, plenty of blossom and life about it, seen here on 14 March. We did once seriously consider removing it, but not after this fine show.
A week later and the magnolia stellata is covered in blossom. Rather worrying though is the lack of life evident on Big Prunus behind. In previous years these two have vied for most blossom in early spring, this year it’s no contest.
Varying fortunes elsewhere too. Above is the pendula rubra prunus next to the gin palace which has flowered at the usual time but has concentrated flower clusters at the bottom of the tree with a few at the top and none in the middle, although it has since leafed up normally. To the right on 3 April the pieris rescued from a pot in the Warwick garden shows it appreciates our acid soil, covered in white flowers and new red leaf growth
After a lot of weather delays both while laying the plinth and painting the wood, the new arbour is finally in place 10 April ready for warm weather G&T-aided contemplation of the southern end of the garden. Planted around it are clematis and roses with one daphne on the right. At the back is a kiwi fruit vine which we hope will grow to the top and spread across.
This has taken a very long time to finish, again because of the cold and wet we’ve experienced making concrete work impossible. Started last November, this is 18 April so about six months! The planned four steps became six in the end with brick edging against the sloping garden. It is planned to remove the grass from here and lay bark chips.
Left is the amelanchier, right is prunus ‘Shogetsu’ both rescued many years back from a very crowded bed and now flourishing in their own spaces. The blossom has been exceptional, but as always seems to be the case we suffer from strong winds when they are at their best, and the blossom soon disappears.
The fruit cage is now home to a fruiting cherry, seen 24 April. With limited headroom we have bought a grafted dwarf variety and it has arrived bearing blossom. Being self- fertile we may even get a cherry or two before the year is out!
Trees doing less well. 24 April and the golden rain tree, left, has been dug up and potted. It has never recovered from being eaten badly by the deer in its first year so this is an attempt to salvage something!
Sadly Big Prunus has been showing signs for a couple of years that it isn’t in the best of health. Brown leaves hanging on branches over winter indicate trouble and there are many dead branches. This year little blossom and leaves only on a few branches. It may be time to cut it down.