Springtime panic

It has been warmer in Scotland this week than it was in Sicily last week, but I’m not planting any lemon trees yet. In fact it’s not unusual for us to get ten days of sunshine in spring, although it often happens earlier in the year. What is unusual is the warmth, and it is deeply troubling, because all the deluded plants are rushing into growth. I know exactly what will happen. Sometime between now and May there will be a killing frost, and all the young growth will be burnt out. This happened last year, so this year I have no flowers on the early species azaleas (rh. schlippenbachii, rh. albrechtii). It’s going to happen again: snow is forecast for Thursday. However, at least this rhododendron has escaped:It’s very old, but continues to cover itself in flowers when its buds aren’t frosted (about one year in three). I don’t know the variety. Behind it you can see my cloud-pruned juniper, somewhat ragged after the winter winds. With luck the rhododendron will now spread to fill the hole.

The cause of the springtime panic is simple. I can’t cut any grass (which needs it) until I have somewhere to put the cuttings. Which means I have to get the two-year-old compost onto the borders and turn last year’s heap. And I can’t do that until I’ve forked over the ground. So it has been hard manual labout this week. But it is done.It’s satisfying to have a border which, for a couple of weeks, appears to be free of weeds. The trouble is that I know what horrors lurk beneath that nice brown covering of fresh compost.

Another priority is to weed the scree, as this is where I get some of the earliest colour, and if I don’t get rid of the moss and the meadow grass which has seeded itself in the gravel, it soon won’t be a scree – just a weedy lawn. Here’s another cushion saxifrage which cheers me up as I brush moss out of the phloxes:And here is androsace carnea ‘Brigantica’ which I love for the simplicty of its tiny white flowers:Saxifrage ‘Haagii’ has only managed one flower stem this year. But it is young. Next year, I shall expect more:And finally, primula rosea, the best early primula for the bog garden. I’ve been lucky enough to see this in the wild, growing all over gravelly islands in Himalayan rivers where it can’t be grazed. What grazes it in Scotland is slugs. The birds like picking the flowers and throwing them around too. Life can be hard.


15 thoughts on “Springtime panic

  1. Hi Kininvie
    Lots of pretty islands of flowers. I like the little white blooms especially and it’s nice to see sunshine in your photographs, even if snow threatens later.
    Is Saxifrage ‘Haagii’ anything like haggis?
    I’m thinking of knitting a jacket for your cloud-pruned juniper.

    • Indeed. It was bred by Edwina Haggis in 1863, but she was a little embarrassed by her name, so changed it to Haagi. Since she lived in Lebanon, this was fine.

  2. Hi,

    I also need to get using my compost in the bin… Only my brother put grass clippings in it a couple of weeks ago before I managed to empty it! Not sure what to do now… Grrrrr. Take out all the grass and then use the compost? Oh it’s a tough life 😉

    Hope the snow/frost never comes! I knew this would happen; that’s why I haven’t yet totally tidied the garden and hope the dead growth will help protect the young growth.

    • Scree is the ‘technical’ term for those gravel/stone run-offs you get on steep mountain slopes. Adapted into garden usage – yes, it’s a sort of rockery. The difference being (at least in my case) that virtually no earth is used. My scree is about 4 inches of pea gravel on top of a couple of inches of larger pebbles. Anything I plant gets no more than half a handful of compost. It’s the nearest I can get to ‘well drained’ – which isn’t saying much.

  3. Love the rhododendron and the alpine plants, hope your frost and snow doesn’t do too much damage, maybe the forecasters will have it wrong again!

  4. It has been so beautiful the last couple of weeks but we do need some rain even here in Wales where the ground is parched. I’ve heard the word snow mentioned this week. I just hope the plants can cope with these fluctuations in temperature. Might have to dig out some fleece along with the jumpers I had packed away.

  5. I know how you might fear late frosts. We get them at the Priory too – two years ago on 7th May (I remember it well) we had a severe one that did huge damage to emerging beech leaves, all laburnum buds killed, all climbing hydrangea buds killed, wisteria etc etc etc. Here’s hoping you escape it this year. Maybe? Dave

  6. I think I can feel very lucky as I don’t think i’m having that late frosts around here but it must be dreadful! The rhododendron looks so good it’s kind of weird to see him so close to ‘the Cloud’… something like ‘the Beauty and the Beast’… 🙂

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