April- can be changeable

Published: 21 April 2021

Last update: 21 April 2021

Blog post
This blog post is written by Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener
A Purple Thorn moth

Night temperatures rising, less rainfall, sun’s out, ground drying out, bulbs in flower, cherries and magnolias in flower, looking good! Then… Temperatures drop, snow, hailstorms, the return of frost, magnolias have all turned brown. All that was missing was drought, glad we still had time in the month to fit that in!

Rather frustratingly, last spring while we were all in lockdown, the garden looked perfect! The warm weather came at the right time, there was still some light rain, and everything seemed to flower all at once, yet there was no one around to enjoy it. This spring started in the same pattern, but a sudden shift to cold weather took many of the magnolias in their prime. Their grand display will have another shot next year, so there’s always that to look forward to. And of course, there are always plans afoot to make it bigger and better.

Whilst last season involved a lot of head-scratching and reflection, this spring it’s all about planning and action! The team are working flat out on presentation to recover some of last year’s lost time. Every day the garden improves a little more. Mulch goes down, weeds are wrested under control, the formal lawns receive their stripes and meadows are allowed to grow away, revealing an abundance of wildflowers.

We’re also working on other key areas of the garden that are closed off. The herbaceous borders are getting a full makeover, with new plans drawn up and our nursery filling up with material awaiting planting in the autumn. The empty beds are currently being turned over, with mulch incorporated to reinvigorate the soil. We’ll be reopening the borders next spring when you’ll be able to see the first section replanted and the start of renovation works in the second section. We’ll also take this opportunity to introduce new wall shrubs and climbers into the area, as well as new climbing roses for the central columns.

In our quest to increase knowledge of the biodiversity at Dyffryn, we’ve been particularly watching bees, newts, moths and orchids. We’ve already noted a few new bee species this year, including the bright orange tawny mining bee and tree bumblebee. Our recent night-time newt survey revealed a good number of palmate and great crested newts in full breeding colours across almost all our water features. We’re also seeing good numbers of rosettes of common spotted, pyramidal and bee orchids in the meadows.

Now that night-time temperatures have started to rise, we’ve set a light trap for moths and seen plenty of Brindled Beauties so far, and the highlight has to be finding a Purple Thorn! Moths are incredible little creatures and there’s a huge array of them, so we expect to find plenty more from our search. Turning sections of egg box over each morning, you just never know what you’re going to get!

For reasons both good and bad, the unpredictability of it all makes this such an interesting profession and means every visit is different. It just goes to show that planning and perseverance will only get you so far if the weather decides not to cooperate. Thankfully there’s always another spring!