I've started to realise that this time of year is all work and little play in the garden. I've been kept busy for the past few weeks with pruning, clearing and getting the garden ready for the summer - which still seems a long way off - but the hard work I put it now will (hopefully) pay off later.
I still feel like I'm doing a lot of guesswork though, because I don't know what many of the plants and bushes are and I'm learning as I go along. Twitter is great for that btw - just tweet a photo of your unknown plant and someone will tell you what it is.
In the meantime I'm following Dan Pearson's gardening recommendations for each month - I like his list of jobs for each month; as well as reading my Gardening Through the Year book which is broken into month by month chapters with featured plants and a What To Do section. I like clear instructions, and as I'm very much a beginner I like pictures too!
Anyway, this week I've been planting some dahlias, a peony and an agapanthus. I've never planted dahlias before and even though they're slightly old-fashioned I like the fact they flower so profusely during the summer months, plus (and allow me a little nostalgia for a second) they were probably my Dad's favourite plants. I'm making that assumption because we always had a lot of dahlias in the family garden when we were growing up. So dahlias it is then.
I bought two, and because they need full sun, decided to plant them in this bed under the living room window. This bed gets the most sun of the whole garden because it's south facing and gets only dappled shade. I also planted a few allium bulbs in this border last autumn, but so far only 3 have made an appearance. Fingers crossed for the others.
One of the best things about this garden (and our previous one too) is the good soil quality. I dug a hole for one of the dahlia bulbs and it's really dark, crumbly soil. Be aware that slugs love dahlia bulbs so it's a good idea to put some slug repellant down. If you prefer to garden organically, I've always found broken egg shells to be a good slug deterrent. They won't crawl over them so break some up roughly (not too small) and scatter them around the plant/s you want to protect.
On one of my trips to Homebase I saw this lovely 'bronze effect' hare. I think it's made from plaster or something similar, but it does look like it could be bronze - so much so, that everyone who picks it up expects it to be very heavy. I thought it was a bargain at £10. Of course when I brought it home Tessie was very curious - it probably brought back some memories of her racing days - but when it didn't move she quickly lost interest.
The hare is now standing guard outside the shed. I might move him into a border at some point but at the moment I like seeing him there, looking vigilant. It's also made me realise that the shed is in serious need of restaining, so that's going onto my list of jobs for this year. I also want to stain the inside a light colour and sort out some shelving and get it organised. At the moment everything is just placed in there with no rhyme or reason.
The hellebores are still looking beautiful and their pinks and lime greens had a bit of colour to the otherwise bare beds.
After chopping down that huge shrub recently, I finally managed to get rid of all the cuttings this week. They had been sitting in a pile waiting for me to do something with them, and today I finally cut most of them down and put them in the garden waste bin. (We have garden waste collected every two weeks by the local council, brilliant idea).
But I didn't get rid of them all, I decided to trim some of the longer ones and keep them back. I'm going to use them as plant supports and already have some sweet peas that will be ready to plant outside soon and will need some sort of frame support. These will be do nicely.
I've still got a long list of things to do, and it's hard work especially as my back is prone to weakness, but it's immensely satisfying and I've noticed my mood lift whenever I spend time in the garden, especially if I was feeling a bit down beforehand.
Are you busy in the garden? What are you planting/planning?