Closer to spring at Hodsock Priory

Last year we went to Hodsock Priory, to see the snowdrops, and discovered the formal garden as a kind of bonus. This year we’ve gone back, two weeks later in the season, and there’s all the more spring floweers out.

The Welsh rose’s parents are still with us, so I don’t have a lot of spare time to write any kind of in-depth blogpost, but here’s a few pictures:


Wild-planted snowdrops:


A couple of closeups:



Formal and pleasure gardens

Prunus mume, by the entrance to the winter honeysuckle walk, but also dotted elsewhere:


The winter honeysuckles Lonicera fragrantissima, lining the walk towards the formal gardens, pumping out scent:


A pretty mound overlooking the ornamental lake, with early daffodils, more snowdrops, and wonky steps:


Prunus serrula, an orientalist stone statue, and a beautiful cream-coloured birch:


Pretty sure this will be Rhododendron “Christmas Cheer”, like the one by the bearpit in Sheffield Botanical Gardens:


A Chaenomeles, starting to break buds?


This looks like a Crocosmia, but I’ve never seen them keep their foliage over winter, and those seed heads?


A view over the pleasure gardens, towards the pond:


Cyclamen coum, everywhere under small trees:


and spilling over this coppiced, re-shooting stump:


Labelled as another P. mume I think this is more likely to be some kind of rhodo:


Hellebore hybrids all over the boggier beds:


and Rubus biflorus, arching over the ornamental pond like a bad haircut, but promising lovelier, leafier visions for later this season:



Among the midwinter flowers in Sheffield botanical gardens

Mid-way between solstice and equinox, we went to Sheffield Botanical Gardens. Maybe not the best time of year to visit the gardens—there were handwritten signs saying “The gardens still close at 4pm”—but despite the season we still felt welcomed by what flowers there were.

Snowdrops were everywhere, for a start, occasionally accompanied by Leucojum vernum, their snowflake cousins:


Eggy crocuses (C. flavus), and Creme-eggy crocuses (C. chrysanthus):


This smashing Garrya elliptica was festooned with little chains of bell-like flowers:


And around the entrance to the old bear pit—festooning it, indeed—was this amazing Rhododendron “Christmas Cheer”:


But (and if you’re not a gardener you might not expect this) everywhere we went we were followed around by scents; or maybe we followed them!

There was an isolated Hamamelis mollis “Brevipetala” (left), and then below the fountain banks of witch-hazel, including H. x intermedia “Primavera” and “Aphrodite” (right, plus a squirrel):


Sheffield hosts the national collection of Sarcococca and we stumbled across this amazing, sweet-smelling bush of it:


And among all the heathers we found, the queerest was this Erica lusitanica, or Portuguese heath, with an aroma like the inside of a sweet jar:


All in all, the visit cheered us up on a cold, February day:


Thanks, Sheffield Botanical Gardens!

Division and subtraction

As a bit of a break from trench digging, I spent a day or so dividing, repotting and tidying indoor and outdoor plants.

On my list was:

Outdoor: Crocosmia.

I’d rescued two pots’ worth of Crocosmia bulbs from behind the Acer before the privet came down and the fencing went up. Given the mudpit that the whole area eventually became, I’m rather glad I did!

To protect the plants, I’d left the old foliage in place all winter, but as green shoots were starting to come through I felt it was time to pull out the brown, dead foliage; it does just come out if you sort of claw at it.

Before… and after:

IMG_20170202_100739_891 IMG_20170202_141125_557

Outdoor: hardy perennials

I have a load of hardy perennials I bought at plant festivals and the like, including a Cirsium rivulare, Geum “Prinses Juliana”, Lamprocapnos, Tiarella “Sugar and Spice”, Stipa tenuissima… and two mints that the Welsh Rose had put by them to keep them company.

I’m not sure the Cirsium is going to bounce back from pest attacks, but I pruned back all the dead foliage on everything else, revealing definite new shoots and generally cleaning it all up. The Stipa, like the Crocosmia, benefits from kind of clawing through it: the green shoots stay behind; the brown strands come away, opening up the plant a bit.



and after:


Indoor: repotting and splitting

I needed to do quite a bit of indoor work, not least on the damp-loving inhabitants of the gravel tray: the Ficus elastica “Tineke” has outgrown its small pot; the Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum (peace lily to you and me) even more so, with straggly roots out of the bottom of the pot; and the Billbergia x windii needed splitting into its pups, which was probably the biggest job. Along with all that, a pot rose needed transplanting, a lavender needed trimming etc. etc.

In the absence of a proper shed (it’s about twenty tasks behind the current state of the trenches) I managed to convince the Welsh rose to let me turn our old gatefold table into a temporary potting area:


This worked a treat, letting me do all the jobs in the warm, and protecting the house plants. Before, the old state of the gravel tray plants:


And after, we see that WAIT A SECOND:


Ahem, after, we see that the Billbergia has made four pots, and I hope at least two of them will survive, surrounding the peace lily:


The Ficus, meanwhile, is now on its own, proud and tall in a corner of the room:


It’s nice to see this go from small houseplant to big, statement plant. The Welsh rose is a bit worried that the house is getting a 1970s feel; I’m sat listening to my copies of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, and thinking: bring it on.