18 May 2015
Leaves spring forth
The last few weeks have seen massive change in the garden just as there has been across the country. Fresh green leaves have clothed the garden's structure once more, bringing with them a greater sense of intimacy. On the driveway the brilliant tulips are mostly finished, replaced now by the self-sown bluebells. Seeing the ranks of new flowers each day makes it feel like the bluebells are spreading before our very eyes. The bluebells have been joined this year by a carpet of yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), the vibrancy of the pairing is just dazzling. Up in the nuttery the archangel is dominant putting on a display the likes of which neither myself or Arne has ever seen before.
In the trees above something exciting is happening; Arne has been planting roses into the trees here for the past few years but over the last 12 months they have picked up and really gone for it, winding their way up through the branches in search of light. Rosa 'Madame Alfred Carriere', a beautiful white climber with a pink blush, has just opened her first flower of the year offering a tantalising taste of the beauty to come. Arne wants the trees hung with roses and not just smaller flowered rambling types, but full flowered scented roses will hang over the entranceway in years to come, dropping petals like confetti over the wild flower strewn drive.
Over the last few weeks the beech topiary and spiral have been shedding last year's leaves, adding a slightly jarring autumnal note to the early summer scene. They have now been replaced by fresh green or wine red new leaves. It always surprises me at this time of year just how fast the change can take place, from barren winter tree to lush, fresh and green, seemingly overnight!
Behind the house the service tree (Sorbus torminalis) is flowering for the very first time. This once abundant tree is now relatively rare, the fruits, known as chequers were used to flavour beer before the introduction of hops. The service tree now sits at the edge of the garden near to perry cider pear trees which would undoubtedly have been grown around the house in centuries past.
As I write I am moving quickly through the garden, past the kitchen garden in which the vegetables, warmed by the recent sun and encouraged by the extending day length, are beginning to grow well. And also past the Primula auricula theatre, in which the auriculas are rewarding us for the time spent re-potting them last year by giving us the best flowering display in years: I couldn't be more pleased with them.
It's up in the herbaceous beds where the changes are really noticeable. We had a huge clear out of alliums earlier in the year as they had started to take over and smother the other plants. The ones we have left are looking fantastic and are just about to break their buds, and it looks like we've got the balance just about right! Elsewhere in the beds the peonies are looking magnificent in flower; Paeonia mlokosewitschii, better known as 'molly the witch' is looking particularly good. They are joined in flower by Aquilegia, Astrantia, Geranium pheum, Centurea 'Jordy' and Anthriscus 'Ravenswing'.
Our lovely little 6x8 greenhouse is nearly ready to be put into place by the kitchen garden as well. We have levelled a base area and will build it any day now where it will be home to tomatoes, chillies and aubergine, as well as providing a nursery for young seedlings. It feels like the final piece of the jigsaw in that part of the garden and I can't wait for the first wet day when I can spend a bit of time in there.
Just along from the greenhouse are our bees. The bees used to live behind the studio barn but had to be moved while the work took place to construct the garden theatre last year. Apparently you have to move bees less than three feet or more than three miles for them to accept the change. They arrived back at Allt-y-bela last week after a year long absence and perhaps because I was so interested to get a front row seat, or perhaps because they had been shut in all night, I got quite badly stung when they ventured out including a rather nasty sting below my right eye!
I must confess that I was slightly cautious after that introduction, although wasp stings are something of an occupational hazard, I'm not sure I have ever been stung by a bee before! I needn't have worried though, the bees have settled in again and are far too busy now to even give me a second look It's good to have them here and we are due to get another hive in the next week or so although I might just keep my distance this time for the first few hours!
Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photos: Britt Willoughby Dyer
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