I’m not someone who loathes winter. I love the way it strips everything away and reveals the bones of the landscape. I love frosty mornings and the how the cold and wet drives us inside to create cosy days and evenings in our homes.
But the way I feel about Spring is something else. Spring literally fills me up. I can look out of my window at the greener grass and the trees in bud and the borders filling up with fat tulips and, no matter what else is going on in my life, I feel an enormous surge of joy and hope.
March and April are the months in the garden where almost anything is possible. Incredible when you look at these pictures to think that, less than a month ago, things were buried under two inches of snow.
Now everything is clarity and freshness. A surge of growth and green. Incredible the speed Spring races away! I want it to slow down. I want to have time to take in the froth of wild Cherry blossom in the hedgerows around the house. I want to enjoy the white Narcissus Thalia nodding in the grass beneath the newly planted Crab apples. I want to catch the bridal sprays of Exochorda x macrantha and the fleeting, star-like Amelanchier flowers.
You might have noticed that all of the flowers I’ve named are white. I might welcome the cheery, yolk yellow of early Narcissus in the pots around my front door in early March (golly, do I need that after the browns and greys of Winter!), but for the rest of Spring, I want white. White flowers have a perfect clearness, a lovely transparency against the rush of Spring green. They also have a simplicity and purity. Like a palette cleanser before the pinks, purples and blues of early Summer.
When we bought the house, the garden was full of blousy, yellow trumpet daffodils (my theory is that it was an economy bag planted that year to make the garden more appealing to potential buyers!). Over the years, I’ve slowly dug them up, created new borders and planted them with my favourite Cyclamineus Narcissus (delicate, windblown petals that are…white). The mishmash of yellow and purple crocus under the Copper Beech are now outnumbered by my white Species Crocus. And the boundaries dotted with my favourite Crab apple, Evereste. The all-White palette only lasts about a month, but I think it’s that transience that makes it more magical.
Mousling looking out at a rather chilly April day. I don’t mind cold Springs. Spring flowers – particularly blossom – are so delicate that they can last less than a week. Cold days keep them going for longer. More time to look and enjoy!
It’s not easy to find a good white Crocus. I tend to like Species Crocus because they are smaller and more delicate than the border varieties. This is Crocus Chrysanthus, Snow Bunting – ivory flowers with a lovely, golden throat. That is one happy bee! Spring flowers, like Crocus, are essential for bees emerging from their winter hibernation.
The crocus under the Copper Beech. My mistake was to plant them in clumps rather than individually. What’s happened now is that they’ve multiplied and the clumps look like blobs of clotted cream on the lawn. Not a bad thing – but not the effect I had wanted…!
The Yew borders, by the Boot Room door, are the newest part of the garden and replaced a gnarly Ivy hedge and ugly, tarmacked drive. I think they are probably my most successful Spring planting scheme. Thousands of Snowdrops come first….
….followed by Narcissus Jenny (windblown, creamy petals, completely divine) and then the nodding, shimmering white heads of Narcissus Thalia. Win! Win! Win!
White Narcissus from the cutting garden. I’ve experimented a bit with what works here. Narcissus Actea – with its orange-red centre – is late-flowering and a winner. Narcissus Pueblo has pretty little creamy heads and is great for cutting with a good vase life. Narcissus Silver Chimes – lots of white heads – is a headache, despite being recommended by the likes of Sarah Raven. The heads are so heavy that the stems collapse and your flowers end up being enjoyed by the slugs. And the bulbs often don’t come up at all. One to avoid, even if it looks pretty here.
This is the view, through my baby Victoria Plum tree towards the house. I planted six fruit trees when we moved here, and now, rather grandly perhaps, call this part of the garden, ‘the orchard’. Because life is too short, I ordered well established standards with good, five foot stems (harder to find than you think!). Every year, I will them to grow and grow. I can’t wait till this part of the garden is more mature and a froth of blossom in May.
Narcissus Jenny is followed by Narcissus Thalia on the bank of the Orchard. So easy to put in (under three young Crab apples) and always absolutely beautiful from every angle. Particularly, on a blush-skied Spring evening
I wish I had a Magnolia! My village is full of seriously impressive Magnolias at this time of year. I inherited a very sad Magnolia, planted painfully close to a boundary wall. Within two years, it had succumbed to Honey Fungus. I haven’t dared to plant another, so this picture is me stalking my neighbour’s very fabulous tree (so beautiful against their equally fabulous Yew hedge).
And this is my stylish France-living friend, Sharon Santoni’s, heavenly, Magnolia-filled garden in Spring. I love how she has created what is essentially a tumble-y, English country garden around her beautiful French house.
A beautiful late Spring white for walls, fences and buildings is Clematis Montana Wilsonii. I have planted two and they have romped away, covering my garden walls with their star-like, Almond-scented flowers.
My one Cherry tree – and it’s a good one! Prunus Ukon has extraordinary blossom which is a pale, pistachio green that fades to white over the week it is in flower. It’s set the Spring colour scheme for the borders around the dining terrace, which are filled with dwarf Narcissus Jack Snipe followed by deliciously scented Narcissus Cheerfulness, which mirrors the Cherry’s pom-pom flowers.
When the evenings are clear, the light through the Prunus Ukon is….well, you can see what I mean…
And then at twilight, white flowers really come in to their own. Here, blossom and Narcissus Geranium looking luminous around the dining terrace on a warm April evening.