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China Girl blog 27th February 2019

Thoughts from the winter garden… The earth in this ancient garden is submerged in time, for nowhere is more evocative of the past than in this ancient domain. This month on February has been warm and dry, but Wesley, a man of soil, said “Mark my words, we’ll pay for it in March!” As Homer wrote “You can expel nature with a pitchfork, but she will always come back.”

Mother says it warms her heart to think of spring. Although the earth is still cold, tiny shoots are beginning to appear, poking through the rich brown soil. The glorious Fritillaria imperialis, the Crown Imperial, one of our favourite spring bulbs, has just started to shoot. Ma likes its delicate scent, despite many people thinking it smells of foxes. There is a charming myth surrounding this spectacular bulb, known in Persia as Tears of Mary. Great drops of nectar appear at the base of each petal, which if wiped away, appear again. At the Crucifixion, all the flowers bowed their heads in homage except the Crown Imperial. Afterwards, in shame, she bowed her head and has wept ever since.

One of winter’s joys is the shrub Chaenomeles, a genus of four north Asiatic deciduous shrubs, which need a sunny position to bring out their best qualities. Chaenomeles superba is a hybrid of C. superba and C speciosa; this cross has given rise to many of the garden hybrids grown today. The simple red flowers spring along the branches in sprays, glowing  in the winter sun. Chaenomeles can also be grown as standards, and look lovely trained in a fan shape against a warm wall.

Everyone has been hard at work tidying up the borders. The countdown for opening in April has begun, there is still much to achieve.

These February days are as bright as jewels, bringing a whirlwind of possibilities