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Tardy bulb planting

Narcissi Rijnvelds Early SensationI thought my bulb planting was over for the year, but in a meeting just before Christmas, a new client expressed an interest in daffodils for spring. I’ve never planted daffodils this late before, so I gave bulb supplier Peter Nyssen a call early in January to see: One, if it was still ok to plant and two, if they had any bulbs left. Regarding the former, they said there’s just about time if you do it STRAIGHT AWAY (but the bulbs would flower later than usual) and yes, they had some bulbs left.

Jonqil Baby Moon

So I’ve planted some Jonquils, carefully, so as not to knock any sprouting shoots off and some Narcissi ‘Actaea’ and ‘Rijnvelds Early Sensation’ (thankfully not so sprouting). As I wondered how behind they might be, I had a very timely conversation with flower farmer friend Lizzie about Vernalisation (yes indeed). She’d been speaking to a daffodil grower who noticed that due to the lack of cold weather, his bulbs were a few weeks behind in flowering. Strange that, but many plants need a cold period to kick-start or accelerate flower production. Having said that, I’ve also noticed that some daffodils in neighbours’ gardens have popped up already, complete with flower heads, which annoyingly doesn’t quite fit in with the Vernalisation theory during this very mild (so far) winter. The more I know, the less I know!

Meanwhile, another friend confided in me that she’s often planted daffodil bulbs in February and they’ve always come up a couple of months later. Very reassuring, and I’m looking forward to finding out when these joyous bulbs will eventually bloom.

p.s. I’ll also be planting Allium bulbs tomorrow.

January salad leavesAlthough I’ve started to buy in lettuces from my local greengrocer, this mild weather has meant that I still have a fair few herbs and autumn leaves in the garden which greatly improve the flavour (and texture) of otherwise rather dull salads.

This is what’s still growing in the garden (clockwise from top left):

I’m amazed that I have quite a number of flowers on some late self-seeded Borage plants, sitting atop what is left of my autumn ‘Solix’ lettuces (normally frosted and over by now). Next are some fiery mustard leaves (because I didn’t get around to sowing a late batch of the more gentle ‘Green in Snow’) resting on top of my Sugar Loaf Chicory. I really love this Chicory leaf. It’s the only truly winter leaf I’ve grown this year and it’s the softness of the leaf I appreciate, as well as the gentle bitter taste. It contrasts well with the crispness and sweetness of bought Cos lettuces and both combine well with a punchy vinaigrette. I’ve covered up some plants with fleece whilst others are without protection against the elements, and the only difference that I’ve noticed so far is that the covered ones have more tiny black slugs in/on them, so extra caution is needed when washing!

Just below are some nasturtium leaves, nice and peppery and to the right of these is some Salad Burnet, supplying a very subtle cucumber flavour. At 6 o’clock are the remains of my Buckler Leaf Sorrel, deliciously lemony with a succulent bite, and finally there’s the last few pickings of Sweet Cicely. I feel like weeping that I’ll be deprived of this gentle aniseed flavour (and feathery texture) soon and for the next two or three months, as a small amount of this wonderful perennial herb can really transform a salad from bland to positively tasty.

I know that as soon as some colder weather appears, most of these leaves will vanish, but I’m cherishing these sumptuous, tangy salad leaves (and flowers) for as long as they last.

Winter blooms

Iris unguicularis Mary BarnardI just popped out to place a new bird feeder (more about this later) in the back garden when I noticed that this gorgeous Iris unguicularis ‘Mary Barnard’ has started to flower. I bought this plant last February at the RHS early spring show (this year’s show is Fri 21st and Sat 22nd Feb) and am very pleased to see it bloom so early as Hellebores and snowdrops are yet to flower (although my Eriobotrya is still in bloom).

Iris unguicularis Mary Barnard 2Mary Barnard reaches about 10 inches (25cm) tall, so I had to carefully get down on hands and knees to see if I could detect a scent. It’s a small and gentle perfume, but it’s definitely there (and possibly more on a sunnier day?). This Iris hasn’t taken long to start to clump up and looks like there’s quite a few more blooms to follow, so I’m quietly delighted!

squirrel acrobatically noshing from squirrel proof bird feederMeanwhile, other antics in the garden are not quite so pleasing. Here’s a furry beast gorging itself from a squirrel-proof bird feeder,

Relaxed one-legged approachand back again with the more relaxed one-legged approach. Although more than a tad annoyed that yet another attempt to feed the birds has been hijacked by this irritating pest, my fury is also laced with a sneaking admiration for such confident and agile acrobatics.

Still, an air rifle would come in handy every now and then! I hear they make a nice pie.

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