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We were moving a stack of old bricks a couple of days ago when we disturbed a family of toads. They were clearly overwintering in the relative warmth and safety of the brick stack and were rather sleepy. We greeted them then relocated them to another hiding place for a few more weeks’ hibernation, after which we hope they will feast on the emerging slugs and snails. While we wait for them to emerge it has been wonderful to see other signs of life out in the garden and hedgerows. There may have been more hard frosts but even they can’t hold back the onward march of nature: snowdrops and aconites are everywhere now and most winter flowering shrubs are in full blossom. We have even seen anemones in flower this week and a couple of early Narcissi. It has been lovely to bring one or two blooms into the house to sit alongside the forced hyacinths on the kitchen table. Spring is not quite around the corner but the days are lengthening and it won’t be long now.
Of course everything is growing, including the weeds, and they have definitely put on a growth spurt. One advantage of the very wet ground is that it gives up the weeds very easily. A little tug and the little rosettes of shepherd’s purse or rosebay willowherb come up, especially from damp gravel paths. We are still keeping off the beds as much as possible. The wet soil gets easily compacted and damaged if walked on, and even if we were tempted, there are too many fragile bulbs just pushing up out of the ground.
One job which could not wait was heeling in the bare root roses which arrived this week. For the moment they have gone into an empty stock bed where they will come to no harm over the next month. We can’t wait for them to fill the Walled Garden with flowers and scent. Many of them will be used on pruning courses in the future but all of them will give us months of pleasure.
We may not have any upcoming courses over the next few weeks, but we will open again soon, so do have a look at the programme and book yourself a place. If you know someone who needs cheering up you could always give them a gift voucher for a future course. Get in touch to find out more.
Plant of the Week
Galanthus nivalis or snowdrop is one of the first flowers of the year. Native to Turkey, Greece and the Caucasus, it is believed to have been introduced to Britain by the Victorians. Galanthus is a dwarf bulbous perennial with linear or strap-shaped leaves, and solitary, often honey-scented, nodding white flowers which have a wide variety of different green or even yellow markings. They grow in humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil which does not dry out in summer and are best in semi-shade. The many snowdrop walks today have their origins in the nineteenth century when the mania for snowdrops prompted the creation of woodland gardens. One of the common names of the snowdrop is Flower of Hope. This year more than ever we could do with lots of snowdrops in our lives.