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by Julie Brooks

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Spring beauty

Hello my friends

So, as promised, here I will share with you some of the beautiful blooms which we are lucky enough to be enjoying in our back garden right now. So much colour, the promise of full freezers (and tummies) come summer and autumn and I'm loving it!

This post is a bit picture-heavy, but I make no apology for that - nature's beauty is worth it!

So the tour begins outside our back door and we find in the border these wonderful Aqualegias (don't know how to spell this one!) which we have in a variety of colours and which seem to pop up wherever they choose from year to year! When we moved in here almost 3 years ago we didn't have any by the back door at all! Aren't they gorgeous? I love the two layer flower which has the big star shaped bottom layer and then a completely different shaped top layer - well worth replicating on some future cards! And they stand so tall too!

Next comes Lily of the Valley. I have always, always, loved this plant, and so did my mum and my gran. And I had it in my wedding bouquet as we got married in the Spring. Hubby and I were never fortunate enough to have it growing naturally in any of our gardens, but it's always grown in my parents' back garden. So, when my mum died a few years ago I took one stem of the plant the following Spring to remember her by and put it in a pot, hoping and praying that it would survive - Lily of the Valley can be tricky and doesn't always appreciate being moved. It survived! And I am so thrilled to see how much it has expanded this season to the point that we now have a little pot full of it, and look at all of those fabulous little flowers just waiting to pop open! And wow, the tiny white flowers sheltered against those lovely big green leaves? Amazing! 

The next beauty is Quince (Japonica?). I love these big dark coral pink blooms even though I'm not a pink person. They're pretty much the first blossoms we see in our garden each Spring so once they appear we know Spring is just around the corner.

Continuing along this border we come to a small tree - Corkscrew Hazel. I love the twisty contorted branches and the purple leaves on this one - quite a contrast to everything else, and the little blossoms are just getting ready to open. 

Now next to the Corkscrew Hazel we have planted a tomato plant in a big pot and since it's against next door's garage well we're hoping when it's a sunny day the warmth from the sun which will be absorbed by the bricks will help keep the little plant warm at night and give us lots of lovely red juicy tomatoes later in the year. (This border, by the way, is South facing, pretty much, so gets sun for a big chunk of the day.) 

Next up one of my all time favourite shrubs and one which reminds me of my grandma - peonies. We have three of these in our garden and I wait each Spring to see the new growth coming up through the ground. It's so exciting to me. They disappear each winter and you wouldn't know they were there, until come the next Spring rusty red growth pops up through the soil, and then I wait with eager anticipation until that growth gets bigger and bigger and turns green and sprouts lots of gorgeous green leaves and then those wonderful huge, dark red flowers appear. They are so, so beautiful when they open and I will do my best to get some photos to share with you.

Ok, still with me? Good! Now, veering over to the other side of the garden briefly, we then find a newly dug plot (hubby has been very busy these last couple of weekends) which is now full of brassicas - cauliflower, broccoli (calibrase), red cabbage and kale. These are not only for us (assuming we get any off them and they're not ruined by the dreaded whitefly) but also for our two guinea pigs to enjoy. It's costing us a small fortune keeping them in veggies so we thought we'd better try to grow as many of their favs as possible to ease the strain on the purse strings! And in our greenhouse at the back there we have more tomato plants, peppers and Florence Fennel growing, with cucumbers to be planted this coming weekend. We still have Second Earlies seed potatoes in there which have finally just about chitted enough to plant out - better late than never! In this section of the garden - the business end we call it - we also have blackcurrant bushes, red gooseberry bush, blackberry bramble, Main Crop potatoes and redcurrant bushes, then way over to the left raspberry canes with give us fruit from about June to October!

Now, you may be wondering what on earth you're supposed to be looking at in this next photo! Yes, there's a lovely blue Aqualegia there, but what I wanted to show you was all of that fine, powdery soil. Now, this section was underneath one of those pre-formed garden pond liners which had been sitting there upside down for a year plus, waiting for us to dig a hole big enough to sink it into - we want a wildlife pond in the garden. We decided to lift said liner and move it to another section of the garden out of the way. We hoped we'd find all sorts of exciting creatures underneath, such as frogs, maybe newts, perhaps some nesting field mice? No! Not a one! Apart from the odd woodlouse, nada, zip, zilch! So disappointing. However, there was this big mound of powdery earth which can only mean one thing - ants! Yep, this is a HUGE black ants nest (we have black and red ants in this garden)! You can't see the depth of it from this shot as I took it from above but it's probably about six inches above ground at its highest! I was sorely tempted to get a stick and disturb it all to upset the ants and see them scurrying around but didn't have the heart - after all, they've obviously worked incredibly hard to create their home, what right do I have to muck it up! So it's been left as we found it. Maybe some savvy starlings will realise there's bounty there and have a go at some stage - who knows! Let's just say if not that will mean one mammoth flying ant exodus in July!

OK, back to the plants! This next photo is the last of our purple sprouting broccoli plants which went in around this time last year. The fox cubs which played in our garden every night last spring and summer broke some of them quite early on, pigeons got others, but we have managed to enjoy some ourselves, and so have the guinea pigs! I'll be harvesting what's left of it within the next couple of days though or the purple sprouts will go to flower and I wouldn't fancy them with my dinner!

Next up, yellow! Yay! Gorgeous yellow wallflowers which seem to self-set wherever they choose but only in the bottom half of the garden. I love wallflowers - we had them in our garden when I was a child, and I appear to have managed to have some everywhere I've lived since.

Now this next shot is one full of promise - tiny baby pears just beginning to grow on our pear tree. I wonder how many will actually be ok to eat this autumn and how many will fall off way before they're fully grown - the last two years they've been quite disappointing. Maybe this year will be better.

Heading down to the bottom of the garden now, and we have our white lilac tree. Again, one of my all time favourites and something I grew up with. I much prefer the white to the lilac, if you know what I mean, and the perfume is heavenly. I love to stand underneath this tree when the blossoms are open and take in the heady scent. And again, gorgeous white flowers and fabulous green foliage - lush! 

OK, so by now you're probably getting bored. If so I apologise, but I did warn you it was going to be picture-heavy! And you can probably tell just how much I love our garden! So the final pictures feature some of the plants growing in our alpine/rockery bed which is against our garage wall back up near the back of the house. This border is opposite the one with the quince in so more or less north facing. It doesn't get very much sun really, certainly not after about 11am, but still manages to give us a lovely display of little blooms every spring and summer. It is quite sheltered I suppose, which probably helps. We have lavender in this bed too and all kinds of succulents.

This last shot I wish I'd taken a week ago because this plant was absolutely full of these gorgeous black and yellow flowers which again I love. It was a treat to behold but sadly many of them have gone over now. Still, you can get an idea of what it was like.

So that's it - tour complete. Thanks for joining me and I hope those of you with a love of plants and gardens have enjoyed it.

I'll see you again soon.

Take care,
love from me xx