Week 3: Andover Garden Watch 2020 – a very special spring

2020: the third week watching colour and beauty emerge on each and every day of this year’s surreal spring

Sunday 5 April – Palm Sunday 

The Euphorbia mellifera begins to flower; the foxgloves are picking up, tucked in behind the Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ (not ‘Red Dwarf’ but perhaps it should have been!)  were grown from seed from last year’s white flowers

A last look at the gorgeous clematis, and another generous Ribes, whose flowers begin to fade as this unusually long spell of bright spring sunshine persists

Monday 6 April

Several viewers have asked about the size of the garden. It is bijoux!
Small but beautifully formed…

It is bound by a footpath and cycleway following the route of an C18 canal, itself replaced in the C19 by the ‘Sprat and Winkle’ railway line from Southampton to Oxford dismantled (foolishly) by Beeching in the 1950s); a light-industrial estate (actually housing a fitness gym and a veterinary surgery and hospital), and the little river Anton (which rises a few miles north of Andover).

This joins the Bourne three miles to the south to become the Test – the world famous chalk stream. And yes, we have trout, and grayling;  herons, kingfishers, moorhens, swans and a water-rail; and water-voles – and otters!

We enjoy a remarkably rural ‘borrowed landscape’ and very little light pollution. And all five minutes walk from the centre of the very unpretentious former market town of Andover, and its Waitrose… We even have a new sports centre – and a very new crematorium. Very on-song.. What’s not to like?

Tuesday 7 April 

I should have added blackbirds, robins, dunnocks,  bluetits, chaffinches, goldfinches, bullfinches, blackcaps, tawny owls, a tree-creeper and a woodpecker; the list goes on

The presence of water makes all the difference. Our  neighbour’s roof has been adopted as a roost by a community of doves and our first swallow was spotted on Sunday, and two house martins today, along with the local sparrow-hawk.

Future box balls line up alongside the garage, awaiting their turn in the topiary. Three lime trees, planted by our predecessors, need regular pollarding if the plants beneath them are to thrive at all. The poor chalky soil dries very quickly, even after a winter as wet as 2019-20. The brash makes wonderful (if rather home-made-looking) faggots which I use to reinforce the river bank. They await the lowering of the river’s water level before deployment. Yes – I do have waders.

The pollarded limes flank the shed; the hammock is out; and the ‘pink’ full moon begins its ascent this early evening, harbinger of Passover and Easter.

Wednesday 8 April

Rosemary Verey, consummate gardener and writer, quotes John Evelyn’s advice given in 1687: ‘Never expose your Oranges, Limons and the like tender Trees whatever seasons flatter, ‘til the Mulberry puts forth its leafe…’

A still leafless trained mulberry (is that a contradiction in terms? It is normally such a wayward grower) stands next to the morello cherry and ceanothus as they both dramatically come into flower. It certainly isn’t in a hurry!

There are the beginnings of buds….but some way behind the convoluted hazel

Maundy Thursday 9 April (and Ralph’s birthday)

And guess who put in a very special appearance? Ratty…

Alba (David’s elder grand-daughter) seeing the river’s debris in these photos, told her mummy just how important it was for the water vole to use his exercise ball

The neighbour’s flowering cherry tree contrasts with the very tardy mulberry; the lilies of the valley, on the point of flowering grace the back yard where the wood store, the dustbins and the fourth obelisk lurk. And the wisteria… well!

Good Friday 10 April 

Some closeups: the overhanging willow in flower; seed pods forming in the fading hellebores; the euphorbia in evening sunshine; tiny flowers on the box; bright blue ceanothus; morello cherries in the making; and the solitary tulip – ‘Queen of Night’. There used to be fleets of them until last year when their bulbs became popular food source for the local squirrel community. Tree rats!

The moorhen is usually very accessible, but right now is in anxious mode, no doubt protecting a nest from the marauding omnivores. If it’s not a heron or a magpie,  it’s an otter or a passing cat, or a brown rat.  It’s a jungle out there…

Holy Saturday 11 April

Today we finally tracked down the drumming; a greater spotted woodpecker across the river – and this time just within reach of David’s short-telescopic lens

So much early-spring beauty

about to make way for the middle-season flower bursts

Clockwise from top left: the fern slowly unfurls; the very eccentric (just wait and see!) allium stand tall; the hosta leaves emerge; the Convolvulus cneorum (a real sunlover) begins to flower; and the river bank’s spreading campanula clumps up

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As the gate-keeping hellebore bows out in the low warm sunshine of Easter Eve

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