Llanfoist House on Easter morning
After the recent bitterly cold and wintery nights and dull grey wet days we are shown the contrasts of April with some glorious sunshine and enchanting bird song.
Having been nagged to go out and have a game with Beetle, our very exuberant dog, I thought I would wander round the garden and see whether anything had been damaged by the frosty nights we have recently experienced. Not a blemish on anything and the bluebells are flowering in front of the Christmas roses although these do not normally show until much later in April. These are growing at the base of an old curved wall. The bluebells are extending their domain and are an enchantingly natural group of wild flowers that follow the snowdrops.
Garden at Llanfoist House
Then I went round to the front garden of the house to see how the magnolia looked – just beautiful.
Looking through the magnolia tree I see that the honey suckle by the front door is getting very leafy! The fuchsias look sorry for themselves – damage done by earlier frosty nights. I will leave them a bit longer to see if they start showing leaves – they are a hardy variety and have been growing along this wall for the last 35 years – so if damaged all I will do is cut them right back to about 10 inches and they will provide lush new growth very quickly and then enchant us with their large purple and bright pink flowers.
The sun was shining across the water on the pool and at first I did not see the wild ducks, but the ripples coming from the side of the pond was a give-away. They have become very cheeky and as soon as they could see me instead of flying away they came over to where I was nagging for food. This addition of natural wild life adds interest beautifully to this special feature that we created such a long time ago now.
We built the island in the pond so that our own mandarin ducks could breed without danger of foxes disturbing them. that was a long time ago – now we have the pleasure of wild duck choosing to nest on the pond every year. When their little ones have hatched they either take them upstream and I expect onto the canal, or they go down stream to the river.
We have had two pairs of duck this year – they fly in across the field making loud noise as they pass overhead. We also get herons parking on the piece of oak that we put for the kingfishers – now that is the most glorious sight – not often but every now and then they will appear and perch exactly where we had hoped that they would.
Garden folly on a Spring morning
The sun is cutting holes of light through the doorway of the folly and everything is looking glorious, the Marsh Marigolds are glowing over the water and the irises and different reeds beginning to grow strong and brightly green. All round at the far side of the pond grows masses of wild garlic – a gourmet luxury that perhaps we take for granted – so much nicer that bulb garlic. I use it in soups, for lining a dish for a nut roast and as it is at its best at this time of the year I wizz up some of the leaves with a little stock and put it into ice-cube containers and into the freezer ready for a dish later in the year.
This area of the garden has been designed to be a controlled natural space – low maintenance with only a small patch of grass to mow – the rest is either densly planted or pebbles and rocks over a membrane with plants planted through. The banks on the far side of the stream are left wild – the only task required is to clear the autumn leaves from the path that goes up and around the pond.
A view of the pond showing the back of the garage and the house.
Somewhere to sit and listen to the birds and watch the wild life. It was here that I sat with our daughter when she was younger – she had a school project to write a poem about a poacher – so I suggested that we sat by the pond in the middle of the night to see what it must feel like to be out in the woods listening for potential prey! Her poem was briliant – written from experience – nothing better.
Old fashioned kitchen garden
Beans are soaked and sprouting roots so these must go into pots today to give them a head start in the greenhouse. Yes I do that with both broad beans and runner beans – I treat them like bean sprouts swilling them through every day until the roots are well formed then I carefully put them in pots and start them off early in the greenhouse. This does not work so well with peas or the french beans. It is worth growing masses of runner beans as they are a decorative addition to the flower garden as well as being a wonderful vegetable to eat.
We are still eating broad beans, peas, french beans and chard that we put in the freezer last year. These make a change from the chard and the purple sprouting broccoli that are flourishing in the kitchen garden. All now dug over and fertilized ready for planting.