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.

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