After three days out of town, we return to find the garden only subtly changed.
As mentioned before, the first to set bloom was the Hazelnut, which is now showing the minute red anemone-like petals of the female flowers. The male flowers are also extended now and release pollen when tapped.
The last of the shade-protected snow has melted, and there is a few more hints of green about for those who look closely.
Under the apple tree, just visible through the brown leaves, the leaf tips of the Siberian squill
are visible, with the bloom bud nestled between the shoots. Further along the path, across from the birch, more early blooms will come from the Pulmonaria, whose fuzzy leaf buds now form fleur-de-lis lance-heads.
Just across the path and alongside the ponds rocky edge, the small leaves of the alpine ladies mantle start to unfold. They exist happily in this hot and often dry location.
Under the birch tree, across from the Pulmonaria patch we have a bit of bare ground. The survival of any seedlings in this area is subject to the goodwill of the ants who nest nearby. We tend to disguise this area with a scattering of alpine-filled hypertufa pots, because little will grow here. I hope the ants in this area will at least provide me some photographic opportunities for the trouble they cause!
This ant corner is under the pond birch, and today it was also the haunt of a female Redpoll, industriously picking through the leaf litter in search of birch seeds from the previous season. But more on her later.
As for chores, we cut back our Spireas to encourage new growth. We also raked back the leaves from the edges where the smaller perennials grow. Many gardeners would dispose of or compost the leaves from the previous year, but I rake them to the back of the border. Here they will not interfere with the growth of the larger perennials and shrubs and they will eventually decompose and add to the soil. Besides being less laborious, leaving leaf litter on the beds helps prevent the seeding of weeds and protects hibernating insects such as ladybugs and queen wasps. The leaf litter also harbors a wealth of minute organisms which adds greatly to the biodiversity of the garden.