19 Apr 2020

Spring progress ... but not as we know it

Mid-April, even in the southern counties of the UK, can be cold, wet and windy. This year though, there have been some joyously warm days when spring has overlapped with summer and brought vibrant colour to the garden.

There’s nothing like a few days of warm sunshine to bring everything out in the garden - me, the flowers, germinating veg seeds and, of course, more seed sowing! A little garden update is due ...

Deep pink cyclamen lit up by evening light in the garden
Evening light, setting sun and ... pink.  I may have stopped breathing for a moment.

Let’s start with some colour.

While it may be very exciting for me to see seeds germinating both outside and in, brown earth and tiny green leaves don’t make for a riveting photograph. But as I walk through the gardens (three spaces to look after now), there have been some stunning ‘Helloo, Gorgeous’ moments.  Yes, I do talk to my plants.

Fading tulips, yellow and red, looks like a flame pattern
Flaming heck! 

Once the daffs have finished, spring is all about the tulips.  But I’ve been waiting for these tulips to go over so that I can dig the bulbs up and plant new not-yellow tulips in the autumn. Mostly, it’s the yellow ones that have returned this year and, let's be honest, I find them rather boring. Same old, same old. Why have yellow when you can grow Burnt Sugar, Black Parrot, Green Artist or Princess Irene?

But then these flame tulips appeared ... And I do love a tulip that can be so extravagantly beautiful in its death throes. Like Exotic Emperor, this one’s a real diva. She can stay.  (And should you be wondering about snow in April, that’s all the pear blossom blown down onto the soil after a day or two of what the weather man laughingly describes as ‘a moderate breeze'.)

Early flowering deep salmon coloured nasturtium plants

Now this really did take me by surprise. Suddenly (or so it seemed to me), the nasturtiums have flowered. There were one or two mild frosts last winter, but not sharp enough to wilt the nasturtium leaves. (Remember I live in London.) So, as they provided a splash of green in an otherwise dull plot view, I let them stay, fully convinced that either the slugs or I would decimate them come springtime. I’m rather thrilled to be proved wrong. A quick tidy of the older leaves and I’m in love all over again.

A cluster of bright yellow calendula flowers
A splash of sunshine?

Turning around, these calendula on the other side of the path are providing a bright and cheerful distraction from an unhelpfully messy heap of flopped allium and daffodil leaves. The daffs are those rather wonderful white ones so I'm reluctant to dig them out - even more so as the alliums are on the point of opening.

Something will have to be done. A few feet away, there’s a Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ that gets hidden from view every year, victim to my whim to squeeze in a rather lovely ornamental clover, Trifolium rubens. The Geum might just find itself relocated to the allium corner and the good news is that Geums can be divided in spring. It is still spring, isn’t it? Hard to tell.

Meanwhile, back in the car park garden ...
Once again the fruit bed is bursting into colour, but not with fruit (yet). Last year, I planted some Ranunculus corms for cut flowers before I'd decided what to do with all the soft fruit in pots. In the event, it was a happy outcome of shared space to which I added a sprinkling of calendula and wildflowers later in the year.

A collage of four ranunculus flowers, white, pink, yellow and apricot

When I wrote about growing Ranunculus in June last year,  I was asked if the corms were perennial. I can now confirm that indeed they are. Planting the corms in winter 2019 was a January afterthought; they flowered in early June. Now, after a year in the soil, they started to flower again last week. Is this early, or normal? I don't know. But I do love it when there's always something to look forward to in the garden. (Mum's Lily of the Valley will be next.)

Sunset peach polyanthus flowering next to a gravel path

Scoff as I might at brightly coloured polyanthus (and I do, occasionally), I love the bold sunset splash of this one. They're hard to fit happily into a garden scheme but they do satisfy a need for colour in the depths of winter, which is probably how this one arrived in my spring border.  They're perennial so I'll see it again next year; for now, it's happy to hide under the hellebores, with just the red Photinia leaf revealing its whereabouts.

Wild strawberry plants in flower and growing over a gravel path
A spread of strawberries?

Now that the car park garden has had a year to settle down, and there's more light until the lime trees grow back, I can see which plants are in the wrong place. This is particularly true of the herb bed and surrounding paths which are currently overrun with wild strawberries. All this from one tiny potful.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as tiny wild strawberries are so delicious. Even so, I’ve dug a few up and taken them round to the other spaces where, if things go to plan, they will quickly colonise any bare soil. Was that wise? Perhaps not.

And I think that's enough colour for one week.  Shall we go back to some nice, soothing green?  Ivy in the car park garden has been, at times, a challenge with its adventitious roots eagerly spreading and twining wherever it can.  But I put up with it (in moderation) as it's such a good habitat for wildlife and who could resist when it garlands the old tree stump so prettily?

Oh, alright, just one more ... Bleeding Heart plant (previously known as Dicentra or Lamprocapnos if you will) is always worth a backward glance. Here's mine in full flower, one of my absolute favourite spring flowers.

Sending hearts and flowers; stay safe and in good health. x

Pink flowers of Bleeding Heart plant above geranium leaves in the garden
I'll always think of this as Dicentra ... 


  1. Thanks for the cheery splashes of colour Caro. Your ranunculus are beautiful. I planted some last year but without much joy so I'm going to try again. I have grown anemone coronaria successfully and they have returned each year. Still very much spring in the north west of England and yes it's always dicentra in my case too :)

    1. Haha! Yes, dicentra trips off the tongue more readily, doesn't it. The other name that will remain the same is that of sedums. I can't even remember what we're supposed to be calling them now! Thank you, the ranunculus are very lovely, I don't know whether I dare pick some for a vase in case they don't reflower. But I noticed on a rare very early escape to the large Morrisons in Camden that they have Ranunculus for sale at their usual bargain prices. Worth checking for in your locality?

  2. Lovely post and pictures. It's really surprising to see the nasturtiums have over-wintered and are flowering again this early. Good, as always, to see the pot marigolds.
    Thanks, and you too. xx

    1. Ahh, thanks, Flighty! So nice to have my witterings appreciated; I hope this post spread a little joy as that what my gardens give to me. I was equally gobsmacked at seeing nasturtiums flowering - they're all out now, deep red, orange, yellow and salmon. It was always going to be a gamble that the plants would keel over but, amazingly, they survived. As did my Cobaea although that's looking more than a little windswept now. Pot marigolds are definitely lighting up the veg patch now - and welcoming the bees back which is rather lovely. Wishing you a good week. xx

  3. It will always be a dicentra yo me too.

  4. Love the ivy garland. Some beautiful splashes of colour here, I do love the Ranunculus and bleeding heart. Yours are both way ahead of mine. You stay safe too.xxx

  5. Beautiful flowers! And I miss my nasturtium.


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