An End To March

I’m taking a short break from ‘The Anxious Gardener‘ but meanwhile, and after months of winter drear, it seems a shame not to share some images from the last days of March.

Daffodils

Daffodils aren’t around for long but The Priory’s brief show is hearty.  I’m so used to their regular, faithful appearance that I don’t even bother photographing many of them any more.

February Gold

(But I made an exception a month ago for Narcissus ‘February Gold’ – which lived up to its name with about a day to spare).

Daffodils (2)

I’ve written before about the dozen or so varieties I’ve planted since 2008 but many Priory daffs pre-date my arrival and, names unknown, continue to thrive.

spring bank (4)

I have an irresistible urge to show the bank below the greenhouses at this time of year.

spring bank (3)

Other than now-over crocuses and snowdrops, I haven’t added anything to this slope.  But unlike the previous gardener, I don’t strim it; at least not until the autumn.  How he strimmed this splendour is beyond me.

spring bank (2)

I say every year how I love this bank in springtime and especially so as I do nothing to it … other than that one autumnal strim.

DSM_6073

The big weeping willows are coming into leaf and another irresistible urge is to lie down beneath them and, fighting to keep my eyes open, clear my head for a few moments to appreciate scale that most gardens can’t accommodate.

Bergenia

A month or so ago, I cut off all the leaves on my bergenias.  You don’t have to but I don’t like the black-splotchy old leaves and prefer to start the season with a clean slate: fresh green leaves, clearly visible flower stalks.  But do as you like – I shan’t judge.

Magnolia stellata (2)

I’ve only ever known one Magnolia stellata intimately.  The Priory’s is a little tree and only reaches my chest.  It has barely grown taller during the nine years of our intimacy.  In the past, its flowers have been browned by frost but this year they are unblemished.

Magnolia stellata (1)

Other than giving it an ericaceous feed (about now), a winter mulch of leaf-mould and keeping its planting square free of weeds, I leave it be.  I’ve never pruned it.

Magnolia stellata

It’s a beauty and when I finally settle into a house for good, with no plans to move, I shall plant one (and hope for lichen too).  And honestly, there aren’t many trees or shrubs I can say that about.

Male pheasant fighting (2)

Male pheasants make an awful racket in March.  It is particularly their loud, short, territorial proclamation that makes me jump and sets my teeth on edge.

Male pheasant fighting (1)

These two were having a protracted battle for the Bird Feeder Territory.   The scatterings from the feeders make this the must-have territory.

Male pheasant fighting (4)

Their sporadic fighting drifted back and forth across the lawn, including a dunk in the pond.

Male pheasant fighting (3)

I don’t know who won the war but I suspect whoever did, will end up the fatter of the two.

DSM_6055

Wood anemones are another rich reward for not mowing and not strimming – though you can see where I cut a path to the bridge when mowing starts again.

Canada goose (2)

Every spring, at least one pair of Canada geese arrive to pooh on the lawns and honk repeatedly.  They honk a lot, Canada geese.  And pooh.

Canada goose

Their arrival is as much a spring marker as any number of daffodils and anemones.

Auricular

By the greenhouse, one of my few auriculars flowered on Friday.  I love auriculars – as perfect a flower as I could wish for.  And I love how they almost stare back at you, demanding your approval.  An approval I give readily.

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Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’

I had long lusted after Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ (lusted might be too strong a word).  I had seen them in parks and open gardens but as VPM is a large shrub – and I only had a little garden – I bided my time.   Then, within months of starting work at the Priory, and with all that space to play in, I finally seized my chance.

viburnum plicatum mariesii

2012

I bought a small, twelve inch plant in 2009 and dug a hole in the lawn.  I can’t find a photo of ‘my’ viburnum prior to the above in May 2012 but after three years, it had tripled in size.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (6)

2013

A year later and it was noticeably larger and gaining height as well as width.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (2)

2014

By last year (its fifth),

viburnum plicatum mariesii (7)

it was clearly visible from a distance.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (3)

2015

And now in May 2015 it is looking rather stately and making quite an impact.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (4)

It is a beautiful shrub, with tiered, layered branches that suggest its common name – the wedding cake bush.  After it has finished flowering, I will carefully prune a few branches to enhance the shape.  I’ll also cut a bigger planting square – the mower sometimes snaps off lower branches.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (5)

It might eventually reach three metres in height and four wide but not for another ten years or so.  I’ve enjoyed its slow-ish growth, development and increasing presence in the garden.  Take your time, Mariesii – I’m in no hurry.

oooOOOooo

A year after I wrote the above,

Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ (2)

this is how my V. plicatum ‘Mariesii’ looks in May 2016, its seventh year.

Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’

2016

If I remember, I’ll post a photo next year too.

oooOOOooo

And in 2017?  Well, I did remember though it is hardly worthwhile.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (2)

A very hard frost in the last days of April killed flowers and buds all over the garden.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (1)

2017

The Mariesii was badly scorched and is not its usual pretty self.  I’ll just hope that 2018 will see it return with a bang.

oooOOOooo

And so now to May 2018.   There were no late frosts ths year and, unlike last year, no damage to the flowers.

viburnum plicatum mariesii (8)

2018

But a relatively harsh winter – for Sussex – has killed off some branches and deer have nibbled others.  The outward spread of my V. plicatum ‘Mariesii’ outward spread is less than I had hoped for.

But then us gardeners don’t always get what we wish for.

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