self-seeded alliums in the neglected shrubbery
Joys to come: self-seeded alliums in the neglected shrubbery
– note the encroaching brambles!

It is truly remarkable what a little bit of neglect can do to a garden!  Flowers secretly proliferate and propagate themselves; plants that began life as a single plant or seed: and almost without warning, you have a multitude of young seedlings, or a bank of blossoms. It has happened in our own acre over the years, and brings such delight whenever something unexpected occurs. Such finds do not prevent me from endlessly increasing my stock of new seeds and plants, but what began as a bag of three summer-flowering bulbs, is by now a drift of purple starbursts (or will be next month).

camassia small clump
In flower now – a single bulb has become a small clump

Camassia, too, with a liking for damp conditions, has thrust its spikes of clustered blue florets through the uncut undergrowth. A heavenly sign of Spring; one moment there are just green leaves and the next moment flower-stalks 18-inches (45cms) high.  Both the alliums (flowering ornamental onions) and the camassia have propagated themselves by bulb offsets or seed – leave the seedheads to ripen on the plant; then leave them to do their own thing. All it takes is ground that is not disturbed, and patience.

pear blossom - no bees

Pollination is of course essential for fruit to set, and I am anxiously awaiting signs that we will have pears again this year, for the recent grey skies and heavy rain has resulted in a paucity of bees and other insects. Indeed the first swallow arrived and departed, for lack of food on the wing. But under one pear tree in the orchard, a cowslip patch has established itself. From one plant bought several years back, a dozen or more are flowering this year. I peg out the area to avoid mowing, and keep it that way until the seedpods have ripened and the seed has fallen. This year, there are plants way beyond the original patch – nature taking its course, ecology for real.


perfect camellia bloom
perfect camellia bloom

The rain and late frosts may have affected the glorious blooms of magnolia or camellia – not taken in our garden (for our soil is inappropriate for this glorious shrub that grows almost wild in Cornwall). It thrives in woodland gardens or with the shelter of a wall and benefits from a leaf-mold mulch, but dislikes limey soil. Ornamental shrubs add height to borders, and provide shelter for wildlife. Make a note in your diary to keep searching the Dobies catalogue for special offers.

Berrington Hall, Herefordshire
In full production (last weekend at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire)

A greenhouse is a godsend in even the smallest garden. If you are fortunate enough to have the use of one, it is no doubt already packed with young perennials you have grown from seed – plants to fill your flower borders; or vegetables to feed you through the coming months. Protection will still be needed on frosty nights – and those without a greenhouse have a choice of alternatives.  Take a look, too, at the range of items for potting on young seedlings.

Berrington Hall pruned the apple trees
Also at Berrington Hall last weekend
(in the orchard – we wanted to see how they pruned the apple trees)

Finally, on this Friday afternoon (thundery and showery here in the north Cotswolds), take inspiration from a free weekend visit to a National Trust garden this weekend (click on link to download voucher) Also, book your tickets for the Malvern Spring Flower Show where Dobies will be participating. More details on what they will be exhibiting will follow in next week’s blog post.

One thought on “Moving on with Ornamentals”
  1. Funnily enough, I have just come in from the garden after finding a decent amount of hellebore seedlings by the shed. I plan to lift them in a couple of months and replant them behind the shed at the allotment. Also delighted to see the recent rain has allowed my various Solomon’s Seals to put on a growth spurt. I was also delighted to discover a self-sown Snakes Head Fritillary in that bed. To think that I had planned to tidy up that section of the garden before I broke my ankle. Those little treasures would never have come to light!

    Our garden is narrow and long, and much is in the shade of trees, so sunny spots are at a premium and used for mini greenhouses for vegetable seedlings and drying clothes. As a result, my decorative urges are satisfied by springtime planting – bulbs in pots and shade tolerant “woodland” flowers.

    Doesn’t stop me having a few more exotic plants – I have a small shelf where I grow alpines. My Jeffersonia is just going over, but the Sanguinaria is taking the baton. Small it may be, but it’s a real “wow” plant all the same.

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