This Week in the Garden... 16th March 2022
The Franciscan Gardens survived Storm Eunice back in February but were not entirely unscathed. Recent visitors will have noticed that the very large leylandii at the rear of the chapel has been cordoned off and some emergency safety work was needed after the storm to cut down the central trunk. In the high winds it had split completely, the heaviest part of the tree falling close to, but luckily not onto, the Chapel. The remaining trunks of the tree that are now exposed are more vulnerable to high winds and so extensive remedial work will have to be taken. Leylandii are hybrids, created from two different species of North American cypress and so not of historical value to the Gardens. An evergreen tree of that size would always be a concern so close to the precious old Chapel and so it is timely that it should be taken down. Thankfully the large copper beech, to the front of the Chapel building is less of a risk, being deciduous, which means that high winds will pass through it’s open branches in winter, rather than buffeting them like a sail.
Spring has definitely sprung in the more recent, much calmer weather. The snowdrop bulbs (Galanthus nivalis) we planted in the autumn have all pushed through along the Cherry Walk and made a very delicate, but beautiful display in their first year. As time goes on they will bulk up into clumps and eventually carpet the whole area in white each January and February. Currently the native daffodils (narcissus pseuodonarcissus) are also blooming beneath the willows in the Cloister Garth. They are much more modest in their appearance than the usual hybrid daffodils we are used to, but just as charming in their delicacy.
Other spring highlights to see now:
Beautiful blue wood anemones (anemone blanda) along the riverside border in the meadow and in the Rose border of the Cloister Garth; Cowslips (primulas veris) in small clusters in the meadow; wood spurge (euphorbia amygaloides) along the shady entrance path to the meadow looking vibrant with it’s lime green bracts zinging against the dark foliage. In the next week or two the wallflowers and pear blossom will be in bloom, adding to the spring colour palette.
We have been working in The Cutting Garden, lightly digging over the soil and weeding to prepare for seed sowing and planting in the upcoming weeks. This week the first batch of vigorous sweet pea plants (Lathyrus odoratus) went out, sown in pots last October and kept in the cold frame over winter to harden them off. By pinching out the top growth a couple of times when they got tall and straggly we now have sturdy, bushy little plants that should provide a profusion of flowers.
March is the beginning of a very busy season in the garden. There are many young plants and seeds that can be safely started off now in the ground. We planted borage (borago officinalis) and have sown comfrey (symphytum officinalis). Peas and broad bean seeds have been put in the “Pot Herbs” bed. This year we are also going to try a new crop, one that would have provided the medieval diet with a good source of protein and B vitamins. We have never grown lentils (lens culinaris) before, but have started some off at home, under glass, and will hopefully have good strong plants to put out in a few weeks’ time.