Here in lower Deeside, we have had the most glorious sunny weather, if a little cold. Mostly too cold for the honeybees; Steve, who keeps bees, tells me that the temperature needs to be above nine degrees before there is much activity. When the bees finally get on the move they will find plenty of nectar and pollen. Mahonias, hellebores and the winter viburnums are still going strong; some of the pieris are now in flower; the pulmonarias are beginning to carpet the Trough Garden, joining the snowdrops and snowflakes, and the chionodoxas and scillas are beginning the spring transformation. Every year we anticipate the magic, as large parts of the garden are engulfed in an ocean of blue.
I was somewhat premature in concluding that the Stachyurus praecox was spoilt by frost. I should have used my glasses! The brown was just the tightly folded buds. I think it will be perfect by the end of the month.
This month we have a star in our midst. Tim, the Crathes apprentice, has been awarded a Student Certificate of Merit by the Caledonian Horticultural Society. Everyone is especially delighted because only one is awarded each year. His training covers all aspects of garden work including glasshouse management. He and Jo had the horrid job of crawling under the staging in house one to weed, and to spread some soil and compost to feed the roots of the climbers the glory bush, Tibouchina urvilleana, and the Chile Bells, Lapageria rosea . The glory bush has been hard pruned to encourage flowering at a lower level. The passionflower in house four has not been happy this winter – it looked as though it might die. Since Andy had grown a new plant from seed some years ago it was decided that the old plant should be removed, which was easier said than done. Eventually Tim managed to remove the root and the old soil. Thompson and Morgan had supplied the original seed, but since then Crathes usually lets some fruit ripen so that has its own supply of seed. There was a bumble bee (Bombus leucorum I think) in the glasshouse on the 12th, but it was not a happy bee despite the wealth of nectar available. The show houses are looking great and the scent of the hyacinths is overpowering. Every year there is a worry about timing the bulb display to coincide with Easter; this year is no different. There are lots of seeds and cuttings coming on promising an interesting year. And, I am pleased to report that the arbutus seedlings are doing well – no more mice for the time being.
Jo points out some Hepatica nobilis ‘Rubra’ plants that have been growing from our own seed. They have suddenly sprung into life and have surprised her with flowers. It minds me of the Hepatica transsilvanica ‘Blue Jewel’ that is newly planted in the Double Shrub Border and showing well for its first year.
The hybrid teas in the Rose Garden have now been weeded and pruned and the finely composted bark mulch is spread. Surely there will be no more weeding this year.
There are easily as many roses outwith the Rose Garden as within. Pruning continues in the Camel Garden. It’s time consuming because, on the walls and trellises, each branch has to be tied in. Plastic tags are no longer used. After the roses are finished the pruners move to the Golden Garden. Judy gets instructions about cutting back the green stems of the Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’, whilst Mike and Steve deal with the golden privets.
Outside the Woodland Garden the Thistle Camp volunteers have been helping in the native woodland area, improving the paths and planting native rowans.
On the Doocot Border the Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ has been flowering for a month or more and beside the Gardeners’ Yard another lovely prunus is in full flower. An old tree, it looks like a damson to me except for the slight tinge of pink at the base of the petals. We just need that rise in temperature to believe that spring is here.