Tulips and bins

Two things are guaranteed to irritate me at this time of year: tulips and refuse collections.
How on earth can tulips be irritating, I hear you ask. Well, maybe it's me, or maybe it's my soil, or maybe – having made a huge effort to plant them and label them in an orderly fashion - I've made a mistake somewhere. Whatever, at least one lot of tulips each year come up a totally different colour from the description. So this year, I've compiled a list of the worst offenders and I eagerly await your comments.

Tulipa 'Jenny'
I'm not quite sure why I bought this tulip, because what I desperately need are tulips in deep, moody colours like purple and maroon, not yellow ones. This is what comes of reading bulb catalogues in the autumn, when your garden is full of russet and yellow and orange.
Description: Sarah Raven catalogue says "beautiful golden tulip, feathered with the colours of a sunset".
Actual colour in my garden: a brilliant orange-scarlet.

And they're off!

Ascot racecourse launched its first-ever spring garden show on Friday 13 April (OK, the gala evening was the night before), and I went along with my daughter and my friend Helen, aka The Patient Gardener.
To be honest, we weren't sure what to expect. There didn't seem to be a lot of advance chatter about it on social media, so our hopes were not high, especially as the weather in the UK has been so awful this winter.

So we were pleasantly surprised to find that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Everything seemed to be well-organised for a start - it was easy to park, we manage to locate the press desk and get our passes without any trouble, and there was a lovely friendly lady looking after the press tent refreshments.
It is sad but true that if you can get the press into your event, and give them tea and cake, you are halfway to a critical success. I am always a pushover for tea and cake, but I genuinely felt this was an event I'd like to visit again.
First, the exhibitors…

Now that April's here ...

Two things struck me when I read my blog the other day. The first was how little I have blogged since last April. The second was the contrast between last April and this April.
Last year at this time I was talking about tulips, and and sitting outside drinking tea in the sunshine, and blossom. This year, there are no tulips yet, hardly any blossom and not a lot of sunshine. I think this winter has been the worst, in many ways, for quite a few years.
I haven't lost many plants, despite two dumpings of snow and endless cold. The main victims were two variegated hebes, which I didn't expect to survive in any case. In my experience, the only reliably hardy hebe here in the Cotswolds is Hebe rakaensis. I also have H. pinguifolia Sutherlandii, which seems to survive all right, but it's in a much more sheltered position. Even H. parviflora angustifolia, which I would normally regard as bomb-proof, has suffered a bit of frost damage.
The other casualties have been terracotta pots …

John Massey's garden

First, an update. I've been busy most of this year on my new book, which is published tomorrow. Visiting gardens when I'm doing a book is very different from visiting gardens for my own pleasure, and quite often I get to the point where I don't want to have to think about gardens, or plants, or combinations thereof for quite a while.
I'm pleased with the book and I think Hugo Rittson Thomas's photographs look wonderful, but completing it left me feeling exhausted. So it was very nice to feel enthusiastic about garden visiting again, thanks to my friend Hester Forde, whose garden, Coosheen, is in Ireland, in Co Cork.
Hester came to see my garden while visiting the Cotswolds this summer. I'm planning another jungle clearance project, this time beneath an enormous yew tree which is home to dozens of brambles and other weeds and saplings.
Hester is a fantastic source of good advice and recommendations, and she suggested I raise the crown, or "limb up" the…

Trees at Colesbourne Park

Colesbourne Park, about 20 minutes from me by car, is known for its snowdrops, and a visit to Colesbourne to see them in flower, and perhaps buy a choice variety for the garden, is one of the few things I can think of that makes February bearable.
Colesbourne is featured in my book, Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds, and I've visited several times since then, but I've never been at this time of the year. However, this year owner Sir Henry Elwes has decided to open the arboretum to the public, so I was invited for a private tour with Sir Henry and his head gardener, Arthur Cole, who trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.
The reason Colesbourne has such a wonderful collection of snowdrops is down to the current owner's great-grandfather, Henry John Elwes, who was an eminent botanist and plant collector. It is said that if Kew didn't know the answer to a query, they would write to Colesbourne, where 14 glasshouses, each with a different climate, housed Henry's…

Jam, Jerusalem ... and bunting!

This summer, my local Women's Institute (WI) celebrated its 100th birthday by unveiling its centenary bunting in the village hall. It has all been made by local members, and a lot of it is beautifully embroidered, or uses an imaginative range of techniques including applique and freestyle quilting.
I'm a member of my local WI, and when I tell people this, they often respond with snorts of laughter, or blank looks, depending on their age and nationality. The WI is often seen as a comedy stereotype in Britain, regarded as the domain of women in pearls and twin sets, busily making jam, baking cakes and generally bossing people around. Famously, the WI's "theme tune" is Sir Hubert Parry's setting of William Blake's poem, Jerusalem, which was adopted eight years after the WI was founded in 1915.
Jerusalem, of course, is a wonderful hymn but we should remember that for the WI the lines:

"Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land&quo…

Spring has sprung at Awkward Hill

The weather is warm enough for short-sleeved gardening, or drinking a cup of tea on the terrace...

There are primroses (the native variety, Primula vulgaris)...

There are tulips ('Purissima') and multi-headed Roman hyacinths ...

There are daffodils and daisies ...

There is blossom on the ornamental cherries, the amelanchiers and the Magnolia stellata ...

Rufus is enjoying the sunshine in the garden ...

And there are new-born lambs in the field next door...

I think we can safely say that spring has arrived.