Springtime Snooping

Spring has finally caught up with us, and the garden has exploded into life, virtually overnight – much as I try to avoid the over-used and maligned word ‘literally’, some plants did appear to have literally shot up from nowhere.

Some of these new arrivals are welcome – irises, tulips, violets, lilies of the valley – but some are foreign interlopers (I am strictly against invasive non-natives of the plant variety only, before you start thinking I’m a Daily Mail type).

The mysterious bulbs in my raised bed turned out to be bluebells – sadly the rampaging Spanish variety not the woodland British flower, which is hard to source by legitimate means. If I do want proper bluebells, I will have to find a wildlife-friendly retailer which sources them ethically…and all the Spanish ones will have to be dug up, eventually. I’ll let them have their moment in the sun and bloom in full this year, though.

Plus I have sycamore seedlings popping up everywhere, which must be coming from a nearby tree – so those will have to be dug up and disposed of as soon as I can get round to it. And everywhere I look, dandelions and groundsel – I need to get a guinea pig, sooner rather than later, to help me dispose of all these weeds, as part of a healthy cavy diet.

Buddleia removed

Buddleia removed, and neighbouring house suddenly looms into view

Not that we’ve been lazy, though – after a morning’s work in the garden, we reduced the buddleia to a large ivy-covered stump, and an enormous pile of wood, which we are going to have to dispose of somehow or other.

The house which backs onto ours IS a lot more visible now, and of course the buddleia will sprout again, but we can keep it under control, and encourage other things to fill in the gaps a bit – I’ve now discovered I have a rowan and a hazel in the shrubbery, which were previously obscured by the buddleia, so I am delighted to have two of my favourite trees already in the garden.

Aside from this hard work (and a break in the weather which finally allowed the lawn to get mowed), I’ve been seeking out signs of spring in my neighbouring gardens.

First of all, a lawn dotted with golden celandines was simply a joy to behold on a sunny day:



A lush border full of mixed hyacinths: lovely combination of pastel shades and deeper blue muscari.

Border with hyacinth and muscari

Border with hyacinth and muscari

A very intriguing couple of front gardens were seen in the direction of Dulwich and Herne Hill, where houses tend toward the grand and front gardens tend toward the well-manicured – or stripped back to the bare minimum to create more space for cars.

A house which doesn’t have a front drive at all, then, devoting its entire frontage to plants, and doesn’t even have a tiled, heavily gravelled, or paved path, sticks out like a sore thumb on a road of Victorian mansions – albeit a rather lovely sore thumb.

Garden path, bordered with hyacinths and forget-me-nots

Garden path, bordered with hyacinths and forget-me-nots

This garden, compared to its neighbours, was more like a miniature nature reserve, complete with well-trodden earth paths winding through it, and a pile of sticks which looked like the perfect hidey-hole for a hedgehog.

Lovely pile of sticks for a hedgehog

Lovely pile of sticks for a hedgehog

This was a planned wilderness, as far as I could tell, a beautiful, fascinating mess on an otherwise tidy street.

It reminded me that according to the London Wildlife Trust, urban front gardens are essential habitats for wildlife in cities – and, like school playing fields and derelict ground, they are increasingly disappearing.

Every front garden I see which has been sacrificed to make way for cars, or has relegated its green space to a mere plant pot by the front door, makes me think sadly of the potential habitat lost to wildlife, and of the flowers that will never grow there.

On to more cheerful things, by contrast I also saw a wild front garden that appeared entirely unplanned, and this one even more likely to be sneered at by its neighbours, as it was in a very smart Herne Hill street.

Surprisingly, the house itself was smartly done up, the tiled path had neither a crack nor a weed visible, so it was not evidently a case of total neglect, but the residents did not appear to be doing much with the garden. The result was a lush green lawn, filled with dandelions, and backed by a swathe of forget-me-nots against the wall. The contrast of bright green and yellow, with the flash of intense blue behind, was quite glorious – and all the more lovely and amusing for being so unplanned.

Dandelions and forget-me-nots

Dandelions and forget-me-nots

Finally, a reminder that even the smallest places can be turned into habitats, and a gem of a garden to please the human eye, too – the phenomenon of planting around the bases of trees on pavements has gone from being the odd daffodil here and there to some quite carefully planned and thoughtful displays.

This one, also in Herne Hill, had some amazing white muscari which I’d never seen before – they looked so pristine against the dark soil, I was enchanted by them, not to mention confused, as at first glance I thought they must be some strange kind of late snowdrop. I may have to seek them out for my own garden, one day.

White and blue muscari in a pavement bed

White and blue muscari, in a pavement flower bed

(Apologies for the badly-focused picture – I was in a hurry when I took it, and didn’t follow my usual golden rule of taking at least 2 pictures in case one doesn’t come out well…shameful admission!)


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