Anyone who is a regular Wellywoman reader will know that it has been a frustrating start to the gardening year for me here in Wales. I know I’m not alone in feeling frustrated about the rain and the cold and the lack of sunlight. The blossom didn’t last long, my tulips flopped and my lettuce are simply refusing to grow up at the allotment. It’s too wet to sow any seeds at the allotment or plant out those plants bursting out of their pots in my cold frames. It has been one of the wettest Aprils for a hundred years and May is continuing in the same vein.
It’s all quite disheartening and demoralising. I’ve even mentioned moving abroad, to warmer, dryer climes. But I was thinking the other day, I’ve tried living in another country and although it was an experience, I did miss Britain incredibly. The chances of me leaving again are slim even if the weather does suck. So to cheer myself up and, hopefully those of you out there feeling the same, I thought I’d come up with a few reasons why I think Britain in spring is a great place for gardeners to be.
Some of my favourite plants come into flower in May. I’ve always loved poppies for their delicate, ethereal quality combined with their ability to adapt well to a variety of conditions. I’ve seen them growing in the tiniest amount of soil, sprouting from the gaps between stones but also in my own heavier, wetter Welsh soil. Poppies will spring up throughout the summer but the sight of the first flowers of the year fill me with joy and once the petals have gone, you are left with one of the prettiest seed heads of the garden.
Alliums are another favourite that first appears in May. A great plant for adding height to a border without any bulk, they look great drifting through clumps of geraniums and astrantias. Creating a purple or white haze from a distance they are a fascinating plant up close, like little stars on stalks. A lot of bulbs struggle with my wet soil but Alliums don’t seem to mind.
Britain has some truly beautiful gardens and, after a winter cooped up indoors, they are the perfect places to wander and be inspired. Some of my favourites at this time of year include the restored gardens at Aberglasney, Lanhydrock and 2 local gardens, Abbey Dore and Kentchurch Court. We have such a wealth of gardening history and expertise, I really couldn’t imagine living somewhere that didn’t have the same passion for growing as we have in this country.
That brings me to flower shows. Spring is the season for gardening shows. They pop up everywhere from the local village hall, selling plants to raise money for Britain in Bloom to the most prestigious of them all, Chelsea. What gardener doesn’t like the opportunity to wander round stalls laden with plants and horticultural paraphenalia? The RHS Chelsea Show may have its critics and a lot of it is the gardening equivalent of the catwalk but that doesn’t stop me from being glued to the TV watching coverage of the show gardens, wondering what Diarmuid Gavin will have created this time, predicting who will get a gold and being inspired by the planting schemes.
It’s not just gardening that makes me love Britain in spring. Our stunning countryside maybe a bit soggy and muddy at the moment but the bluebells are in full bloom, creating a bluey purple haze through our woodlands and cow parsley is just starting to flower in the hedgerows with its frothy white umbels.
There is only one place I would rather be than my garden or allotment and that is by the sea. Give me some cliffs and the sound of the waves as they crash onto a beautiful sandy beach and it doesn’t get much better. It’s not long though before I’m plant spotting. Spring is the perfect time to see our coastal wildflowers, growing in the toughest of conditions with salt-laden winds and poor soils. I always marvel at how they can grow in almost pure sand or tucked into the tiny crevice of a wall. One of my favourites has to be sea thrift or Armeria maritima, a little plant which produces dark green almost grassy like clumps that send up gaudy pink flowers held above the tussock on stalks so that they resemble lollipops. It can be spotted all along the coast of Britain clinging to rocks but I most associate it with holidays in Cornwall.
So there you go, just a few reasons why, for me, even though as I write it has started to rain again, Britain is a great place to be in spring. Of course, it all looks much better when the sun shines but you can’t have everything.