outside in: March (10/12)

One garden’s weed is another garden’s wild flower

aconite muscari cottage garden gardening bloWell, that’s certainly the case in our garden this month. A carpet of golden-yellow aconites is keeping the emerging bees bumbling around happily. I was surprised to see a reader’s letter in a garden magazine a while back berating these early flowerers for infesting his lawn. It made me smile to imagine him grumpily tearing up the cheerful little things.

If you don’t like them I suppose their prolific self-seeding must be quite infuriating. We have them growing out of walls, between paving, among tree roots. I did have to sacrifice a few when I turned over the area we’re going to use for a cutting garden last week. But when Steve cut the grass yesterday, he made sure to leave a few patches here and there.

Another plant that seems to get some gardeners tearing their hair out is muscari, or grape hyacinth. It spreads like wildfire.

For me, any combination of blue and yellow symbolises spring. And with so many aconites and muscari to spare, I don’t feel at all guilty about picking a few for the house.

aconite muscari cottage garden gardening blog

since it was mothers day yesterday, I put a few in my Granny Brown’s jug

There’s not much else that I’m willing to pick at the moment. We have some blossoms and early tulips, but I prefer to leave them in the garden. I decided the crocuses looked better outdoors than inside as well.

I did pinch a few blooms from Steve’s camellia though. I’m not much into floating flowers, but I made an exception for these. And it meant I could use another piece of Granny Brown’s Lily of the Valley glassware too.

red camellia floating

peter’s rhododendron

rhododendron, cottage garden, gardening blogLast summer, my daughter and I spent a couple of hours washing the leaves of a rhododendron.

It was a case of kill or cure. The poor plant was looking so sorry for itself and we didn’t know what was wrong. Its leaves were thick with algae though, so we decided a good clean might help.

Rosemary, the lady who lived here before us, planted it in memory of her husband around 20 years ago. I always think of it as Peter’s Rhododendron.

The first year we were here, it looked as though it would put on a great show of flowers. But a couple of frosts just as they started opening put an end to that.

rhododendron, gardening blog, cottage garden

the buds form long before the flowers emerge – here they are fattening up in November

Last year, there were hardly any flowers at all. I began to worry that we were neglecting it.

So as well as cleaning the leaves, we dead-headed the flowers that did make an appearance. No mean feat on plant that’s six foot high and four foot wide. Then we gave it a couple of feeds and watered it (with rainwater) when we remembered to over last year’s hot summer.

rhododendron, cottage garden, gardening blog

the bud unpeels one flower at a time

The recent warm spell has put the whole garden on fast-forward. We haven’t had a frost for weeks, and for the first time since we moved here, Peter’s Rhododendron is flourishing.

rhododendron, cottage garden, gardening blog

rhododendron, gardening blog, cottage garden

divide and multiply

I gave up growing hostas in the ground. Each spring they’d push up fresh new shoots, but as the leaves unfurled the slugs would find them. Within weeks they’d be ragged and sad-looking. By mid-summer they were all but gone.

rain hosta, cottage garden, gardening blog

One year I couldn’t bear to watch. So I dug my two hostas up and stuck them in pots smeared with vaseline (to stop the blighters crawling up the sides). They thrived. In fact, they were the only plants we brought with us when we moved here.

splitting perennials, gardening blog

Last winter we had a go at dividing them. The recommended way to do this is to put two forks, back-to-back, into the crown, then gently prise the plant apart. But when we tipped them out of their pots they were so horribly root-bound that our gentle prising soon turned to brute force wrenching. In the end we had to chop at them with a spade.

I was convinced we’d killed them, but they came back better than ever.

hosta, cottage garden, gardening blog

So today I had another go. And our two hostas are now 11.

While I was at it, I divided some hardy geraniums and veronica we planted last year.

splitting geraniums, cottage garden, gardening blog

There’s something very satisfying about splitting perennials. Give your plants a new lease of life, and get a few more for free.