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  • Debi Holland

Reflecting on April


Life has certainly taken an unfathomable path. Everyday life is no longer 'normal' but as time goes on I think many of us have become accepting of our new routine and are making the best of it. The weather has been kind and with the burst of spring energy there is plenty of tasks to keep us busy in the garden.

I find myself taking pleasure in the most simple of tasks, weeding, sowing seeds, watering, all a welcomed distraction. I am really appreciating each new bud and bloom, more than ever, bird song dominates the air waves as it no longer competes with aeroplanes and incessant road traffic noise.

On the gardening front it was a challenging start to the year weather-wise with record rainfall but the arrival of Easter has brought sun and an eruption of new shoots and blooms; the season has suddenly launched full steam ahead.

April sees the most striking change in the garden within the space of a few weeks. Sprays of green foliage finally fulfil their destiny; nest building is in overdrive, ducklings and lambs grace the countryside. It is all go! And in the garden...be guided by what your plants are doing 'now' not just regimentally carry out traditional seasonal tasks.

Late March and early April have seen the garden a wash of narcissus and hyacinthus, quickly followed by the arrival of tulips with a welcomed kaleidoscope of colour. I planted some new varieties in autumn 2018 and have thoroughly enjoyed seeing these bloom. 'La Belle Epoque' along with some old friends 'Queen of Night, Angelique and Black Parrot' have been a delight. So far 'Ice Cream and Finola' have yet to put in a return appearance.

Hyacinths provided an exquisite heady scent. My preferred cultivars are 'Woodstock' for its rich magenta, 'Pink Pearl' and 'Purple Sensation.' All hold an impressive presence in the Spring border. Other fabulous bulbs that shine in April included fritillary, lily of the valley, species tulips and camassia.

The current Covid-19 crisis has caused all of us to have to change how we conduct our lives and I often feel like I am in the 'Sliding Doors' movie, realising what I had scheduled to do at any one time and then finding myself instead at home...in the garden.

Although it seems irrelevant in the scheme of things, Easter, for us, should have been spent at the Lake District. Such outdoor luxury seems unimaginable presently but pondering those memories I thought I would reflect on last year's visit and more importantly the plants!

Last year I spent half of April in the Lake District and it was fascinating to see what a difference geographical locations made to plant development. In the south a lot of narcissus had faded and withered whereas our lakeland holiday home was blooming. It was also fabulous to enjoy acid-loving plants which thrive at the lakes. Rhododendron and azaleas were at various of stages from bud to simply showing off! And even magnolia were STILL radiant. It really was the year of the magnolia! Spectacular.

Magnolia last year had an extraordinary long flowering period, they flourished for a good five weeks. Streets and gardens were lined with white, pink or magenta where many other garden shrubs and trees remained green or bare.; whereas this year I have noticed many got hit by frost and are struggling to recover. Often these exquisite flowers are all too brief and the petals fall as confetti before you have had time to properly appreciate their beauty but these ancient, diverse blooms are well worth the gamble.

One of my favourite holiday past times is finding plants in their natural habitat whilst I'm out on an adventure walking or mountain biking. The Lakes excelled in fab finds. Disused slate mines provided the ideal growing medium for sedums and wild flowers such as herb robert and at altitude many grasses, bog bilberry, mosses and lichens find their home between the rock cracks.

I was on the look out for arctic alpines and took many trips 'up' the mountains to see what I could find whilst out hiking but some interesting finds were wild narcissus lining a boggy stream in the depths of the fells, a beautiful long slow worm sunbathed across my path whilst out mountain biking and my attention was constantly distracted on hikes with the resilient plants hanging on for dear life to crags.

Back down south fruit trees finally break dormancy and what sight that is.

The promise of apples and pears for the coming season is a welcomed sight, such a tremendous source of food and drink for later in the year!

Many shrubs had a bumper April 2019 and were COVERED in blooms and are thankfully they are following suit this year too... Photinia 'Red Robin' quite often gets a bad rap for being common in municipal planting but this year I have been in awe of its prolific beautiful blooms - even the 'non-believers' must have cracked!

And lastly, one word - Montana. Clematis montana erupts in April into a heavenly scented delight and completely takes over the front of our house, as it does every year - it never let's us down!

Stay safe everyone in these challenging times. Make the most of enjoying the natural world around you however large or small your space. Listen to the bird song, watch the wildlife and relax. Happy gardening!

All photos taken by Debi Holland © 2020