In winter, plant growth slows as low light levels and cold temperatures enclose them. Many lose their leaves or die back to survive the harsh conditions and at this time, inevitably, the mind of many a gardener turns to spring.
Not being so different ourselves, we’ve been planting many of the bulbs that will provide much of the early floral interest in the garden – both from our point of view, and that of any avant-garde insects. Perhaps we’ve left this latest round of our bulb planting a little later than we would have liked, but we’re confident that with the continued mild weather they’ll have a chance to start putting some roots down before winter proper.
Spring bulbs are fantastic in areas of garden that include herbaceous or deciduous plants: the bulbs will have flowered and done much of their work before the rest of the planting springs to life and shade them out. The classic example of this is the bluebell which Shirley discussed here
We’ve also been thinking about spring in another way and have cleared and rabbit-fenced a small area to allow us to grow-on plants for the garden, from seeds or cuttings. By growing plants ourselves we’ll be able to reduce expenditure, ‘plant miles’, and ensure that peat isn’t used in the production. We’ll also be able to grow some harder-to-find or local-provenance plants which may be readily available as seed only. And it’s great fun nurturing something beautiful from almost nothing.
However, in the mean time, we’ve taken delivery of some of the grasses which, although part of the original planting plan, had proved hard to source. There are two Calamagrostis cultivars and a Deschampsia. I rather like the little mounds that grasses like these introduce into the beds, and I’m hopeful that the dry, sheltered environment will be of use to overwintering invertebrates for years to come, not to mention the cover they provide to animals moving across the ground.
Of course, as the days shorten we’re left with the long dark evenings to contend with. If you’re not already familiar with it, I’d like to mention the BBC Radio 4 Series ‘Saving Species’. I listen to the repeat on my way back from the horticulture course I do as part of this internship (9pm, Thursday, Radio 4) but it’s first broadcast every Tursday at 11am. Or you can listen here. Last-week’s episode (#26) included an interesting piece on work to try to save the spoon-billed sandpiper, about which you can read more here. If the dark evenings get too much, the BBC have 67 past episodes archived online for your perusal!