Surprises and purges…

Looking south yesterday in early sunshine, Tostat, February 2020

Early sunshine this week is just beginning to catch the turn into Spring. The greens that were a bit fatigued are beginning to perk up and the quality of the light is warming up just a bit. Looking south yesterday, while I am not yet doing my minimalist tidying up, of which more later, I could just detect the whiff of Spring coming.

In one of the planted squares near the back door, last year’s from-seed- Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’ is looking really good. I chose it because I have a bit of a thing about dark foliage, and the glossiness of theses leaves which have come through blistering heat and dryness, a soaking November, and now a mildish winter is picked up beautifully in the morning light. For such a lovely plant, and dead easy to grow from seed so don’t pay good money for plants in pots despite my link above, the name ‘Chedglow’ is a bit of a clunker in my view.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’, Tostat, February 2020

And not far away in the same square, is a Spring favourite of mine, Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’. Now there’s a name that works! A smallish plant but it does slowly clump up, and when the golden lemon flowers open, the contrast is quite lovely.

Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’, Tostat, February 2020

I really hate big irises. It’s not that other people can’t make them look wonderful, but with me, they are nothing but a problem, not liking an often damp spring, and providing safe havens for seriously annoying weeds that I don’t want. So I have annihilated them pretty much from the garden. However, the very early Iris reticulata is another story. Tiny, but very animated, I grow them in various places round the garden just to create a tiny surprise at this time of year, and I have some in a low basin that I can put where I like. This lovely dark one pops up under clumps of Eryngium eburneum, whose long, strappy leaves are a bit on the dormant side right now- which makes just enough sun to tempt the Iris to flower.

Unknown Iris reticulatat, Tostat, February 2020

This has been the best year for Daphne odora aureomarginata. It bursts into flower before any new foliage has got going, and this year, the bees and insects visiting have created a turbine sound effect at the back door on warmer days. But Daphne can be a bit temperamental. This large one was bought about 15 years ago by me as a tiny stripling, but I have another one which, at least 8 years after planting, is still barely 20cms x 20cms and looks deeply miserable

The path at the back door, Tostat, February 2020

I can forgive Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii anything at this time of year. Later, this will be a year of the purge to reduce my expanding population a tad, but now they have free rein. The praying heads are just fabulous, especially when draped nicely with dew, and the chartreuse flowerheads that follow are a welcome punch of colour that outdoes any daffodil.

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, Tostat, Feburary 2020

Talking of purges, Andy did a massive hack in Shitty Bank. This is the part of the garden that is no more than the poor, stony spoil from the swimming pool installation chucked up to make a mound by the ruisseau. Whatever grows here has to be super tough and many plants have died along the way. This year we are experimenting with making great heaps of cutback material and leaving them to cover difficult areas, to see if we can regain control where brambles have got dug in. So, amongst the shortly-to-be-stately Eryngium eburneum clumps, Grevillea rosmarinfolia and a mean Yucca, here are the heaps of cutback. Let’s see.

Shitty Bank, Tostat, February 2020

A great delight last year was growing this lovely Yellow cerinthe from seed. And as ever with cerinthe, if it likes you, it has self-seeded beautifully and these are the first flowers.

Yellow cerinthe in the dew, Tostat, February 2020

I don’t purge any wildlife, and try my best to let it all in, come what may. But I draw the line at the Pine processionary caterpillar. An evil little kritter, which forms up into dangerously charming lines and sets off following its leader all over the garden. They are poisonous to humans and other animals, and I have yet to find a good reason for their existence. Petrol and matches on the spot before they start roaming is the only answer. These ones have all been torched.

Finishing on a cheerier note, two new Hellebores flowered for the first time today, and are a very elegant addition to the fold, see below. And they are such a good and all-round player, the Hellebore. Clothing the bare legs of Rosa ‘Fantin-Latour right now, the jungly Orientalis foliage will stay good and green right through the winter. The danger of a few blotchy bits can be over-exaggerated I reckon.