Every moment snatched for the garden is spent grubbing out squillions of weeds, and my heavy soil clutches firmly to their roots so that most of the time weeding involves removing the top layer of soil. it’s particularly troublesome where I’ve introduced not-yet-properly-composted compost that has formed a firm little crust on the soil surface. This crust clings determinedly to the plant being unceremoniously yanked out — definitely time for some more careful Rounding up.
The hybrid tree peonies are starting to open their enormously fat buds. My tree peonies (apart from a purchased Rockii that sadly never emerged from hibernation) have all arrived as layerings from another garden. Somehow I’ve managed to gather 5 variously sized plants of P ‘Vesuvium’, a gorgeous darky black-red double with rich yolk yellow anthers, really lovely but five is 3 too many. I have two double yellows that seem to be happy, they’re very similar but i’ll check more closely this year for subtle differences, maybe P. ‘Age of Gold’
My favourite is Marchioness, a happy fusion of a soft primrose base with apricot staining flaring out from the cluster of red tipped stamens ams pinky toned petal edges. Sadly she doesn’t seem to care for me, despite doses of composted manure and occasional drenching with fungicide she struggled this year to produce three blooms. I look hopefully for a little layerings to start a new plant but nothing so far.
Roses are opening, I know they’ve been in full bloom for ages in warmer gardens where they don’t receive regular bouts of freezing air from the mountain, however my roses leave the mid spring display to the peonies and rhodos. R. Sparrieshoop is the first to start waving simple mid pink blooms about (waving far too much with the recent wind! ) and R. Archiduc Joseph is quick to follow with his softly quartered blooms. He would offer flowers earlier but being located at the creek end of the garden places him in the path of hungry possums who feast on the early leaves and buds. This plant originated as a cutting of a particularly strong clone in a previous garden. Not my favourite colour, love the soft creamy coral blush in the centre but not so keen on the strong crimson toned cerise outer petals that, typically for a tea, deepen with age . That deep brick/cerise crimson can be a difficult colour to mix with rosier and lilac toned pinks but the whole effect works beautifully with Rosa mutabilis (currently languishing in the vegetable garden while i get around to digging a hole) actually I’m not going to mix them in this garden, no space near the Archiduc and i have plans to plant the airy mutablis in front of the lower deck. Should be nice to look at the garden through her.
A welcome return this year is the variegated honesty, Lunaria annua ‘Alba Variegata’ . The seed was sent to me after i admired it at Wychwood when the Plantsman and I visited several years ago and although it came up well the first season it has dwindled ever since, possibly out-thugged by Forget-me-nots. However this year a variegated white flowered plant popped up, I’ll be careful to collect seed again. Wychwood has been sold after a fair while on the market, I do wish we had managed to make another trip there in the last couple of years
The last of the species peonies to flower, Paeonia emodi, is building up to its big moment. There is so much to love about this plant, gorgeous fingered foliage that starts with spring bronze and finishes with soft autumn yellow, and soon we’ll see the high point of deliciously carefree white blooms
Three Pacific Coast irises came my way after I admired them in a particularly special Dandenong garden. Two have thrived but the third was badly placed under a robust photinia, moving it to a better position was one of those jobs frequently remembered when walking past then promptly forgotten. Now the Photinia robusta itself has been removed the third little iris has discovered a new zest for life
Another completely different little iris with its delicately textured petals and classic shape, Iris reichenbachii
Amsonia tabernaemontana was purchased years ago from Raithbys because it sounded interesting, I’d never seen this plant in my gardening travels. At the time both Amsonia tabernaemontana and the more feathery Amsonia hubrechtii were available and I’ve often wished I’d bought one of each. It was a tiny plant initially and being fully winter dormant i watched anxiously each spring for the first few stems to come through. The first year that it produced those lovely delicate sky blue flowers was a major cause for celebration. Beside it is the pink oriental poppy, Raspberry Queen (another utterly uninspired name) from Lambley, it’s actually rather a gorgeous rich watermelon pink, I gaze adoringly…
Lovely little cistus with tissue paper crumpled petals from the Plantsman, I found the tag hidden under its skirts, Cistus parviflorus from seed sourced from Ikaria, possibly my favourite Greek island (of those I have visited, there may be a new favourite down the track)
A big cistus, Cistus ladanifer v. petiolaris ‘Bennetts white’ with its huge white saucers, stunning when in flower but rather average for the rest of the year
And still more white, one of my favourite shrubs with its outstretched arms balancing filigree white saucers. unlike Bennetts cistus the Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ offers elegant shape, autumn colour and berries, although I have to admit the berries aren’t really up to much. The location of this shrub, jammed into an unattractive corner recently laid bare by the removal of an unattractive acacia, is unfortunate. It was purchased and planted very early on before I had any idea what shape the garden would take, therefore everything was planted close to the fence. Note the Paeonia daurica subsp. macrophylla in the foreground, it has flowered but briefly. Sadly, eventually Mariesii will be shaded out by the gingko.
Spring would not be complete without the last fabulous blossom hurrah from Malus ionensis, the scent is lovely, it hums with bees and last year it produced a huge crop of large green spherical crabapples.
and the last word from the bat-wing Spotted dog