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Buds on my crab apple

Buds on my crab apple

I’ve been feeling a little bit grumpy of late. The weather has been preoccupying me somewhat. With my book deadline looming and photo shoots booked I’ve been anxiously looking at a garden and allotment that should be springing into life. Instead I’ve got bare soil and plants that are sulking, sitting there waiting for some warmer weather. The first photos of the year have already had to be postponed and now it’s a waiting game with me wondering whether spring and summer will arrive in time.

Over the last week or so I’ve started to write a post but I’ve heard my words as I type and I just sounded pretty fed up. I don’t like writing when I feel like that. Sometimes it can be cathartic but most of the time I find it just compounds my thoughts rather than relieving them. I promised myself I would only post if I could write something more positive, rather than inflicting my rants and frustrations on you all. So today I bring you flowers to cheer, green shoots and seedlings galore.

Heartsease

Heartsease

Last week I finally managed to plant up my purchases from my break in Cornwall. My run-in with some ropy seafood and a spell of decorating indoors has meant that they have languished in my cold frame for nearly a month now. I’d chosen a selection of shade loving, spring-flowering plants. a pretty little heartease and a sweet violet which was in bloom when I bought it in mild Cornwall, but a spell in colder Wales has made it a shrinking violet and there are no flowers to be seen at the moment.

My gold-laced primulas don’t seem too perturbed by the lack of warmth though. I’ve developed a bit of a primula addiction recently. Lynne Lawson from Barnhaven Primulas recommended a book to me, ‘The Polyanthus’ by Roy Genders. Written in the 1960s I managed to track down a copy on the internet and I’m now hooked. Hence my other purchases of Primula ‘Francisca’ and P. sieboldii ‘Snowflake’. Francisca has really unusual green, ruffled flowers which are tantalisingly close to opening and ‘Snowflake’ has small, white flowers with intricately cut petals which are held on tall stems above the foliage. My P. denticulata are just coming into flower. This is my first year of growing them and I’m intrigued to discover that they have quite a strange way of producing their flowers. Rather than sending up a stem and then the flower buds opening, the flowers are opening in a tightly packed rosette nestled in amongst the leaves, instead. I had thought it was something I had done but in the last few days I’ve noticed the stems are starting to elongate, carrying the globe of individual flowers upwards. Apparently this is perfectly normal and what these drumstick primulas do.

Primula denticulata

Primula denticulata

The Bodmin Plant and Herb Nursery in Cornwall is one of my favourites and no visit to the area is complete without a trip here. They have the most amazing selection of herbs. I never realised there were so many different types of rosemary and thyme for instance until I wandered into one of their polytunnels. This time I was tempted by a pot of parcel or leaf celery. Celery itself is notoriously hard to grow and I’ve never attempted it but the leaves of parcel taste just like celery and can be added to soups towards the end of cooking to give a celery flavour. I’m also hoping they’ll taste good in omelettes and salads.

My herb planters are otherwise engaged at the moment, planted up with tulips I couldn’t get into the ground last winter because of all the rain. But once they have finished flowering the parcel can go in the zinc baths along with my other herbs which have spent the winter in the greenhouse.

It may have been unseasonably cold so far this spring, and this may have played havoc with plants outdoors but we have been lucky in this part of Wales to have had some lovely sunshine at least. And, behind the glass on my windowsills, seeds have been germinating at a pace. In fact, my seedlings are at the stage I would expect them to be for the time of year. I sowed some zinnias at the start of April and they had popped up within days. The addition of a heated propagator this year has made a difference, certainly with some flowers I’m growing which needed to be started off in February. I’ve also tried to do everything properly, using seed compost for seed sowing rather than just multi-purpose and incorporating perlite. Germination from most seeds has been good but there have still been disappointments and frantic resowing in the hope I don’t lose any time.

Broad beans ready and waiting

Broad beans ready and waiting

In the greenhouse the broad beans have finally started to grow. I’ve potted them on into bigger pots and they can sit in the cold frame for a few weeks now. I much prefer to plant out substantial plants if I can and my February sown broad beans are even a little further on than some of those my allotment neighbours sowed back in November. I’m pleased I ignored the weather and sowed trays of lettuce, peas, beetroot and spinach. We have a fairly short growing season anyway so anything to try to gain some extra time is worth it for me.

seedlings in the greenhouse

seedlings in the greenhouse

My windowsills are pretty much at full capacity at the moment so some milder weather would be welcome, allowing me to move a few hardy annuals into the greenhouse. Oh, and I did get quite excited yesterday to discover the first shoots of a dahlia poking through the compost. I let out a bit of a squeal, loud enough for Wellyman to come downstairs to see what was going on. I think he thought I’d discovered a mouse or something.

So I’m trying to defy mother nature as best as I can but soon my plants will have to go outside. Lets just hope by then spring, at least, has arrived.

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