In the chiller

Since my last post about two weeks ago, spring has come to a halt. It’s true that the South of England has had more rain than Scotland ( there’s always a certain schadenfreude on the rare occasions when that happens), but here it has been much colder, with temperatures rarely above 7 degrees, and several light frosts too, to hold things back. This happens in a north-easterly airstream, and we have been stuck in one for about three weeks. I have never seen the trees so late into leaf.

May 5th is always a critical date, because we often get  a final, killer frost on that day which wipes out the mid-season rhododendrons and any young growth going. And today, the skies have cleared. It’s good to see the sun, but I’m not sanguine about staying frost-free tonight.

So, while the going is good, here’s a picture of rhododendron yunnanense just coming into bloom. One of the few that makes it to tree height in this part of the world.The sun has brought out the spring gentians. This is gentiana verna. A wonderful, electric blue. I’m always seduced when I see this plant  for sale, and I usually have to replace it every year, as it appreciates neither the Scottish winter nor the acid soil. This one has managed to survive into its third spring, however, with the help of a few limestone chippings, although it is not bulking up – just hanging on.

Gentiana acaulis ought to do better, as it grows on acid soils. And indeed my young plant is showing every sign of being happyAcaulis is an oddly temperamental plant however. It spreads easily enough, as you can see, by thrusting out new shoots just under the surface. But sometimes it just refuses to flower in the spot you have chosen. Dig it up and shift it – even a few feet – and it may suddenly decide to flower after all.  Also its trumpets are just too big and heavy for the stems, so the flowers tend towards the horizontal….not ideal for the pollinators. But still, those great blue flowers are welcome, whatever their position.

The bank of whin (gorse) by the house is now approaching maximum yellow. It’s another irritating plant – extremely prickly, a terrifying fire hazard, leggy with age, lies down and dies if it gets any weight of snow, and seeds everywhere except where needed to regenerate itself. But that warm scent of vanilla and the bank of colour – well, who would be without it?