Outside the Backdoor

Observing what can happen in your own garden even in suburbia!


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Spring rainbow

This post wasn’t planned. Then neither was the idea of spending Spring 2020 in lockdown! However, if there is one time of year when I’m quite happy to be at home every day, even if I am still working like mad, then it’s spring.

With the daily gloom and doom of the news, we all need positive things to lift our spirits so earlier this week I began posting photographs to Facebook of some of the brighter, vividly coloured blooms currently dotted around my borders. I didn’t have a plan but I think all the rainbow pictures adorning the windows that I pass daily on my permitted exercise, must have sunk into my subconscious as I began to realise that I was posting the colours of the rainbow! So here is my spring garden tribute to the NHS.

RED – Wallflower

Unfortunately that means starting with a rather blurry photo of the one truly red plant currently in flower in my garden. It made me realise that red isn’t a very spring-like colour. Tulips maybe, but I prefer orange or white ones, and perhaps something like chaenomeles would suffice if you happen to have one of the right colour.

ORANGE – Tulip Ballerina

The sight of orange tulips is truly uplifting and I’ve already made a resolution for the autumn, I need to buy more and I know just the spot where I’m going to plant them in full view of the house.

YELLOW – Marsh Marigold

Our pond is a riot of yellow at this time of year as it is completely surrounded by marsh marigolds. Beloved of bees, it’s providing essential food for emerging insects. Its leaves are also giving shelter to a rather lonely frog who appears to be sitting patiently in the hopes of a mate arriving. The newts, on the other hand, appear to be thriving!

GREEN – Euphorbia Martinii

A souvenir from RHS Malvern Spring Show 2018, I love the red eyes of this euphorbia. It makes a terrific contrast to the everyday woodland spurge that we have running amuck at the far end of the garden. Admittedly we did plant it there having brought it from our previous house, but it has rather taken over although it too can look pretty splendid backlit on a sunny spring day.

BLUE – Bluebells

I’m sure this picture of bluebells will have many of you exclaiming that this seems awfully early! I would agree. Something like 2 – 3 weeks early I think and not normally around for Easter. Inspired by a friend, I’m planning on picking a few that are hidden from view and bringing them in to adorn our Easter table.

INDIGO – Honesty

Now we get into the difficult colours – Indigo and Violet. I confess I had to Google this to try to work out the difference. Neither turned out to be quite as ‘purple’ as I had imagined which presents quite a challenge in terms of selecting some spring flowers to complete my rainbow. So please forgive me if the colour-match here isn’t quite right!

Purple honesty is quite rare in our garden as we mostly seem to have banks of white. I don’t know whether I should admit this but they all originated from seed that we saved some years ago on a holiday in the Netherlands. These days I know better than to bring random seed in from abroad. I don’t think we seriously thought they would grow but grow they did and, with some careful management, we have managed to break the biennial cycle to ensure we get some in flower every year.

VIOLET – more purple if I’m honest!

And finally, to end on a very spring notes of tulips again. Part of a mixed pack of purple, purple tinged with white and pure white, these have been adding a wonderful splash of colour to the patio over the past two weeks and, most importantly, appear to have defied our cat’s attempts to eat them!

On a weekend when I lost a fellow Gilbert and Sullivan fan to Covid-19, these are my “Flower that bloom in the spring, tra la!” And which make up my tribute to our hard-working, dedicated NHS staff.


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Surprises!

When it comes to the garden, I prefer my surprises to be good ones rather than bad ones!  Call me fussy, but I prefer to discover that a treasured plant has reappeared rather than that the slugs have eaten my newly germinated radish!  The last few weeks have certainly sprung some good surprises.

First up were the creamy yellow scented narcissi.  Stupidly I had dumped the pot they were planted in around the back of the shed next to the pot washing pile.  I ignored it all winter (pot washing being a warm summer’s day activity in my book) assuming that I would just clear it out in the Spring.  However to my delight, in February it produced some of my favourite Iris Reticulata!  These delicate, deeply coloured flowers are so rewarding to see on a cold day when Spring still feels some weeks away.

Then, to my amazement, this pot threw up a further surprise when it revealed the scented narcissi.  These happy multi-headed stems seem to dance around in the sunshine and their perfume wafts around in the breeze.  Behind them I can see tulips emerging so clearly this must have been a ‘bulb lasagne’.  Someone remind me to label it so that I don’t make the same mistake again next year!

A different sort of surprise has been the flowering of our Mahonia in the front garden.  This is one of those plants that has always been there and, to be honest, we’ve paid very little attention to it.  Every year it’s produced a few prickly leaves and the odd bit of flower but last year, for the first time, we suddenly had a mass of yellow and this Spring has been a repeat performance.  Sadly it seems to be a rather bog standard form of this shrub and does not exude the wonderous scent that is promised in the descriptions of more genteel varieties advertised for sale.  However, what it lacks in scent, it is currently making up for in vibrant yellow spikes and I, for one, am very happy for it to continue doing this year on year!

And finally, this is a surprise that I can’t decide whether falls into the good category or not.  Some years’ ago John fell for the purple and white Honesty that was flowering freely in the garden of a holiday rental house in the Netherlands.  He collected some seedpods and brought them home.  Subsequently I have thought that this was probably illegal – but hey ho!  Honesty is a bienniel so only flowers every other year.  We sowed the seed and then had a very long wait but, sure enough, we were rewarded with banks of purple and white flowers two years’ later.  We have now managed to juggle the cycle so we do have some Honesty in flower each year but this Spring does look like being a bumper year, particularly for the white variety.  However, there’s a new kid on the block – a pale lilac coloured flower!  There’s only a couple of them so far but we’re wondering whether we’re onto something new!