What happens after a frost-free spring

I thought I was only taking six months away from blogging, but it seems to have become spun out into seven…

It has been the usual long, dark, wet winter – but in contrast to last year virtually no snow has fallen, and the temperature has seldom dropped beneath -3 degrees celsius. So, for once, the rhododendron and early azaleo buds have survived. In fact, I’ve seldom seen the early rhoddies cover themselves in blossom to this extent:

This is rh loderi ‘King George’ -a blowsy pink number with a remarkably strong scent (which you only get to experience on the rare windless day).  I planted this in entirely the wrong place where it doesn’t get enough shelter from the north, so not only is it growing more like a creeping shrub than a stately tree of 25 feet, which it can manage in more favourable climes, but its buds are normally shrivelled by sleet-laden gales. On the rare occasions it escapes, it does provide something of a wow factor at the entrance to the house.

The flowers turn from their carmine beginnings to a pink-tinged white as they open out – just the kind of colour that interior designers commend for ‘feminine’ bedrooms. The frangrance is also somewhat ‘feminine’, reminding me of expensive bath soap.

This is a bog-standard early purple – so bog-standard that I have forgotten its name (if I ever knew it). It usually survives the frost about one year in three, but when it covers itself like this, the weight of the blossom drags the branches almost to the ground.


Finally, the only respectable tree rhododendron I posess (again, no name, sorry). It has taken the better part of forty years to reach this height, but reliably rewards me with a block of colour before the blue poppies behind it come into bloom.

Even on a dull evening such as tonight, the view from the terrace is really rather exotic!

19 thoughts on “What happens after a frost-free spring

  1. So your escape was premeditated. And your winter was warm! I am still hauling out the dead: camellia, jasmine, azalea, “hardy” olive. In Oregon we saw 0 degrees F and the plants did not like it.

    Lovely rhodies–with one d though. (You can put the extra d in the tag.) I envy you the fragrant blooms and forgive you all the pink comments…

  2. Phew! So glad you are back, I thought you were permanently missing in action, Mr K. I envy you your rhodies, can’t grow them here, and the frilly pink one is stunning.

    • Hi Minety – they are a bit of a labour of love here – they don’t really appreciate the clay and most of the time sit around looking sullen. But when things go well (warm summer and low-frost winter) they are worth the disappointment!

  3. Welcome back, Mr K and I’m glad you had a soft winter. I’ve been planting tender stuff out for three weeks or so now (though with fingers crossed). If nothing else I’m determined to get my bleeding echiums to flower. Dave

    • May 5th is crucial date in calender for me. After that, I reckon I’m safe from frost. (Been known to be wrong though). How is the tropical border? I’ve been worried about you in the floods down south.

      • May 7th is the latest very sharp frost I’ve had at the Priory – did a lot of damage. Tropical border mostly planted up – the big red banana was a stuggle to transplant from the greenhouse and sulked a bit but is fine now. And the floods were bad – gardens suffered a little but not the house (unlike in 2000). Dave

    • Hiya Fay,
      Have you actually moved yet? I’m a wee bit confused. If you are finally in East Neuk, I’ll pay you a visit, bearing plants in hand…. The novel reached a certain hiatus at a point where Linnie considered a bedroom scene appropriate, and I didn’t. Life’s like that, isn’t it?

  4. Welcome back! Barely any frost to speak of here in Wales too this winter. I have just moved my dahlias out from the greenhouse to harden them off. It’s still chilly here and the wind whips through my allotment so plants need toughening up before I release them. It has been a beautiful spring to appreciate blossom and the magnolias have been spectacular. It’s lovely to see you getting the chance to enjoy your rhodies.

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