5 April 2021
Lent lilies and other woodlanders
The Lent Lillies have been gorgeous this year (see photo). This is the dainty little daffodil naturalised in Britain, Narcissus pseudonarcissus. She graces some of our woodlands by gently seeding around in elegant little drifts. They have taken at least 10 years to settle in well in our little meadow under the silver birches, but they really do look at home now. The bigger, bolder hybrids have their place, and we have those too here at Charnwood. But this is a good one if you prefer a more gentle, natural look.
Not that it is really natural of course. If you read my column regularly you will know by now that I prefer a wilder planting that looks like nature has taken over in an understated but convincing manner. I’m under no illusion though, it is manicured by me in the way some people do with their tightly mown, weed free lawns and neat borders of carefully pruned shrubs: it is just a different kind of artifice. Probably a more pretentious one too, but I like it!
Normally I would suggest that you deadhead your daffodils to enable them to put their energy back into the bulb to produce a nice fat flower next spring. The Lent Lily, I treat differently, leaving them to self -seed and, as long as you are patient, you will be rewarded by increasing little groups of this delightful flower in a few years’ time, they take around 5 years to produce a flowering sized bulb. Never cut off the leaves of bulbs or tie them in knots, they won’t thrive for you so well in the coming years if you do.
This is the time you can divide any clumps of snowdrops and move them to any space you would like more. Moving them ‘in the green’ means you can see where you want them to go and it avoids planting on top of something else. You can buy them online this way too, they aren’t expensive and snowdrops will flower for you for many years to come. They too have looked smashing here this year in big, bold drifts. I have a few ‘Sam Arnott’ snowdrops in a special spot by the front door: their flowers stand taller and have bigger flowers than the native one. Sam is impressive, he looks like a snowdrop on steroids, but I must admit I do prefer huge drifts of the smaller, daintier, native plants.
Another little woodlander that is getting going here is the Cardamine. Be careful where you plant it as it can take over. A place in a wilder area that eventually will get mown, it will do well, gently growing into a carpet of decent sized clumps with its pretty leaves and little pink flowers. It is classed as a good ground cover plant so beware: that is usually code for ‘it will cover the ground very fast indeed and you will be digging it up for the rest of your days’. But hey, sometimes that is good in a garden, especially in one that its pretentious owner likes to think looks natural!
‘Right plant, right place’ is that great and sadly missed gardener, Beth Chatto’s mantra that really does work as a guide. Planting a fern in full sun, or a poppy in damp shade really won’t lead to the best result. So have a wander round your garden on a nice sunny day, take stock and move perennials that are not thriving. Digging up a clump of day lilies or hardy geranium now will give it them a fresh start in your border. Most perennials given some tlc will soon romp away if you dig in a little fresh compost and give it a good drink. If you don’t get quite the right spot for it though, don’t worry, there is always next year!
Spring is here, enjoy!