Dry weather at last
According to the Meteorological calendar, today is the first day of Spring. It is indeed clear, dry and sunny and the number of buds appearing certainly seems Spring-like, but it's still very cold outside with frosts most nights. Astronomical Spring, on the other hand, isn't due to start until 20th March and I'm hoping that by then it will start to warm up a bit. You can find out why there are different dates here: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/learn-about/weather/seasons/spring/when-does-spring-start.
Despite the chill in the air, the ground has at last started to dry out which means I am finally able to walk on it without fear of compacting the heavy clay soil. It's been great to get out into the garden to see how everything's doing. I've done a lot of pruning - buddleja, leycesteria, lavatera and salvia have all been cut back ready for their new growth - and I've made a start on some weeding.
Above: it's always slightly dismaying to cut so much healthy growth from a buddleja but it will encourage new growth and flowers, and the plant will quickly return to its usual 8 foot height.
I'd left a number of flowers on my lavatera to turn into seed heads, so when I pruned this plant I retrieved them and removed the seeds. Lavatera Bredon Springs is a beautiful perennial with masses of flowers which keep coming right the way through Summer and well into Autumn, but it's not particularly long-lived. By harvesting and planting some of the seeds I hope not only to multiply my stock but to have new plants ready when the old one dies. During the winter I had insultated the greenhouse with bubble wrap, but with the lavatera seeds plus a number of vegetable seeds trying to germinate in there it was time to allow more light in. I therefore removed the wrap from the south and east facing windows to allow the sun to do its job while leaving it on the cooler north and west facing windows so that my little fan heater won't have to work quite so hard (the west side is shadowed by our house so gets little direct sunlight). It seems to be working: my pea, onion, cabbage and rocket seeds are already starting to grow although my tomatoes and swede have yet to show signs of life.
Above left to right: Seedheads from Lavatera Bredon Springs; the seeds removed and ready to plant; sugar snap peas have already started to grow
At the beginning of February I was dismayed to find a dead bee caught in my Fatsia Japonica, I suspect bees had become accustomed to finding pollen on its flowers and were caught out when the flowers died off. This persuaded me that I needed a few more early flowers in the same area so that they could still find pollen, so off I went on a spending spree and I now have a late flowering mahonia (my other one flowers in December and January) and several hellebores blooming away. But I was gratified to note several bees buzzing around my winter-flowering heather at the opposite end of my plot on a recent sunny morning, so at least I've got that part right.
Above left to right: mahonia, hellebores, bee on heather
I'm really looking forward to being able to plant my pond and the area around it, but it's still a little too early for native pond plants so I'll just have to be patient!