February- Bright winter sun and bitter north east wind

Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener

Bright winter sun, bitter north east wind, heavy rain, sleet, snow, hail and blue skies again all by 10 am… ah, it must be February.

I’ve become increasingly aware that so many of these entries begin with a note on the weather, for which there is very good reason. Checking the weather is generally how my day begins, once I’ve fed the dog of course. Dog first, weather second, human third.

The weather plays such a huge part in our gardens and learning to work with it is certainly amongst my top tips for gardeners. Pay attention to the weather and learn how it affects your garden. By keeping a close eye on the clouds and the temperatures, particularly at this time of year, you know when the frost will arrive to further break up clods of earth in the veg patch, you know when the ground will have dried out enough to quickly pop a mower round and you’ll know when it’s time to grab an extra coffee and head off to the potting shed for the day to let the rain pass.

After the most recent bout of snow, peaking through a good 5cm in places, were the sun kissed tops of Crocus chrysanthus, C. Vanguard and C. Flower Record. 100,000 were planted on the Kennel bank over the last two years along with Narcissus and Gladiolus and the first few thousands are starting to come through. At the south end of the garden is the stunning blue Scilla bifolia. Incredibly dainty and forming an almost blue haze above the grass, or snow, these tiny late winter flowers won’t be around for long, but are well worth seeking out ahead of the big, brash daffs stealing the show. The snowdrops that we’ve been planting over the last few years are also doing well. Planted in the green and then allowed to naturalise, we hope that the 120,000 that went in will slowly colonise large areas of the garden. Carpets of Galanthus nivalis will in time play a supporting role to the more specialist varieties of Snowdrop found in the pot displays and in and around the Rockery and Fernery. It’s coming up to the right time of year to plant snowdrops ‘in the green’ so do look out for them to purchase potted and plant them out once they have finished flowering. Planting around deciduous trees and shrubs will suit them best, where they will spend the rest of the year in dappled shade.

Whilst the hedge work and tree removals continue around the garden, a few members of the team are heading off to the Skirrid to work with the Brecon Rangers team for a couple of days, harvesting pea sticks for the garden. Every year we use a lot of hazel and birch around the garden to make supportive structures for herbaceous perennials and annuals. From Peony stands in the walled garden to baskets for the herbaceous border and side supports for the gourd tunnels, the annual influx of brash from the Brecon team is invaluable to the garden. This type of material is harvested during its dormant period before the buds have begun to break. This means the stems will still be nice and flexible for weaving and it also won’t disturb nesting birds or dormice. Come back in the spring to see the seasonal constructions coming together.

Our wildlife is incredibly important to us as it keeps flowers pollinated, pest species under control and generally makes for a far more interesting environment (I saw four bullfinches in the garden over two days last week, fantastic!). This month we’ll be planting nearly 5000 hedgerow trees and shrubs along the boundaries at Dyffryn to provide food and shelter for our local wildlife and our seasonal visitors. The Woodland Trust have supplied the plants including hazel, hawthorn, oak and dog rose to help create healthy, species rich runs of hedge. They’ll take a few weeks to plant up, but dedicated teams will be out in the fields relentlessly planting to get the job done, adding another important layer to the rich tapestry of habitats in and around the gardens at Dyffryn. Fingers crossed the weather will be kind to them.

All the best,

Chris Flynn

Head Gardener, Dyffryn Gardens