February in the Gardens: First Daffodils and Fool's Spring
It's hard to believe that for most of February 2018 Waterfurlong lay under a thick blanket of snow - the little Elka daffodils now in full bloom didn't flower until mid April last year. Not surprisingly, for the past few days the gardens have been a hive of activity , with all of us who can get there emerging from hibernation to dig, prune and plant or just bask in the sunshine and catch up with neighbours.
A couple of weeks ago we headed off to Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge to see its famous and fabulous snowdrops. The air was positively honeyed and the RHS says it's the combination of last year's hot summer and balmy winds blowing in from the Azores that have made this the most fragrant February in living memory. "After a period of cold the flowers are coming out in a rush and the scent is intensified as the fragrant volatile compounds vaporise more easily on the warm breeze." Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturist, explains. "In summer scents are prolific and tend to mingle but as fewer plants are in flower in winter, you can distinguish the individual scents more easily. " In Waterfurlong the sarcococca and mahonia are smelling wonderful and the trip to Anglesey Abbey has persuaded me to plant more winter-flowering shrubs like daphne bholua, witch hazel and shrubby honeysuckle, as well as the highly-fragrant snowdrop galanthus S Arnott, filmed here nodding after a shower.
There's a down-side, of course. It's the first time I can remember discovering aphids on my overwintering broad beans, and delightful as it is to see brimstone butterflies and fattening buds on trees and shrubs, the risk of everything being walloped by a return of wintry weather is real. For we all know this is Fool's Spring.
Heaven forfend that we end up with a second mud season - we've squelched our way through quite enough of the stuff since autumn and the ground is only just beginning to dry out and become workable. Some of our experienced gardeners are canny enough to plan for just about every eventuality. Keen vegetable-grower David had his plot dug, weeded and composted and fleece protection in place well before the winter rains hit. Not all of us have been as organised ...
And whilst fair-weather gardeners like me kept cosy indoors over the past few months, those who keep hens still had to make twice-daily visits come rain or shine. As you'll see from this photo, the Waterfurlong hens enjoy first class board and lodging!
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2019