At this time of year, it is tempting to be deceived by the siren calls of an early spring, and although it has been mild, while the south and even north-east Scotland has been enjoying a February heat wave, it has been wet and windy here, day after day after day. I always enjoy this time of year, even when the weather is foul, it is a time of anticipation and eagerly looking for every harbinger that confirms that the seasons are changing. The skylarks are always ready to ascend on a song flight as soon as the sun peeps out from behind a cloud, the lapwings can’t resist a quick loop de loop with a cry of peewit peewit, and a soft bugling alerts you to look up and see a small herd of whooper swans heading north-west over the sea to their Icelandic breeding grounds.
In the shelter of the orchard, the first daffodils are appearing amongst the primroses and the scillas. In the faint hope that there may be an early insect on the wing, the jonquils are advertising their delights with waves of heavenly perfume.
Elsewhere some of the other bulbs are announcing the onset of spring with a thrusting energy that sends fat and succulent new shoots to the surface. The Crown Imperials and the alliums have all been seduced by the whisper of spring on the wind and responded to the milder temperatures with an unseemly haste.
Some of the herbaceous plants are not to be left behind. The first feathery leaves of the Bleeding Heart Dicentra (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) are sheltering behind a large rock; and although the spear like shoots of the hostas are not as shy, they are not nearly as bold as the peonies.
Paeonia cambessedesii, the Majorcan peony, is a lovely compact peony with single pink flowers each with a boss of golden stamens. The new leaves are a stunning deep red which slowly fades leaving the leaves with a purple underside. It has a reputation of for being tender, but I grew it outside in my last garden and it came through many a harsh winter. Until this year it has been grown under cover, but it out grew its allocated spot and has been planted in the in-between garden. It is in a sheltered corner, but I fear that the wind will shred its delicate leaves, perhaps it may prove tougher than I suspect. There is also a myth about peonies being difficult move, but don’t always believe what the books say, particularly as plants can’t read.
I am always surprised by how early the some of the corydalis flower. Whether they are in the garden or grown under cover, their presence is ephemeral. There is almost no time to enjoy their fresh green, ferny leaves and clusters of hooded flowers. C. solida Transylvatica has lovely pink and cream flowers and is a tiny gem. It was planted in the in-between garden in the autumn and appears to be perfectly settled in the shelter of a large drift wood log. Corydalis have a reputation for either being difficult or thuggish, but if you get them established they are worth the effort.
Predictably, March roared in like a lion, and after a visit from storm Freya, parts of the garden look like the “morning after”. Today it is sunshine and blustery showers, a typical Hebridean early spring day. I have seen more serious devastation after a storm, but I fear that some of the gardens further south have suffered more serious damage. Don’t despair you may be surprised at how resilient some of your plants may prove.