April- An understated celebration of spring

Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener
a burst of catkin buds

At a time of year when we look forward to the spectacular annual show put on by Rhododendron and Camellia, there’s something else just as colourful going on around us if we just look a little closer.

New foliage is often overlooked, but produces the most vibrant array of blues, greens, dusky purples and reds, which just like the more prominent flowers, will only be around for a few weeks each year. The newly emerging growth of so many plants, as well as being at their brightest and unmarked by scathing winds and the mandibles of insects, they carry with them all of the promise of the season to come. One of my favourites has to be the newly unfurling croziers of Matteucia struthiopteris, the shuttle cock or ostrich fern. Standing proudly upright and being of the most vivid apple green, their site always lifts the spirits as the young fronds make their way skywards. 

Of course the diminutive stature of a freshly unfurling leaf may not be as immediately striking as a bright spring bloom or the vibrant colours of autumn, but get up close and you’ll see just how colourful these new season’s arrivals are.

My first spring at Dyffryn was accompanied by the annual anticipation of en masse tulip displays. Within a few weeks of the bulbs emerging the leaves and flowers became marked, which could be confused with damage from hail, but the new growth was also distorted and developed necrotised patches. Having dealt with these symptoms before, I recognised that the garden was full of Tulip Fire. This is a fungal pathogen that can build up in the soil, causing increasing levels of damage to tulips over time. Owing to the specificity of the pathogens host, by not planting tulips out into the garden for a few years eventually the fungal spores will disappear. Four years later and we decided to sneak a few tulips into the south front, just to see if the fire is still about and so far it’s looking good. Maybe we’ll see a return of tulips to the beds in Dyffryn? Until then we’ll just have to delight in the myriad of tulip blooms found in the stunning pot displays around the garden.

Work continues on the South Front project. The Croquet lawn is now roped off whilst we work on the turf. So far we have scarified to remove the old grass and moss that builds up in the sward, aerated to improve the root zone for the grass and top dressed to get a bit of nutrient back in the lawn and begin to adjust the surface texture. The next step is to over seed just ahead of a bit of rain and then we’ll allow the new grass time to grow in. in time this will give us a much better quality lawn to relax on and enjoy for the next season.

The garden changes so quickly at this time of year and we are spoilt for colour as the magnolias pass the baton onto the Wisteria that appears all around the gardens at Dyffryn. We can also delight in the variety of scented plants, with the current favourite being Viburnum x judii growing not too far from the west end of the Walled Garden. It’s an absolute corker and well worth seeking out the next time you’re in the garden.

Chris Flynn

Head Gardener, Dyffryn Gardens