Spring is yellow

Spring certainly keeps us on our toes. We’ve had some splendid sunny days of warmth followed by heavy rains, hail storms, sleet and high winds. The dramatic and unstable march from winter to spring always seems to surprise me yet, it comes through every year. The first primroses are pale yellow, the winter aconites are bright yellow, the narcissus are also yellow, the buttercups are golden in the sunshine of spring and the sun that promotes this growth is a big yellow ball in the sky. Yellow is a very divisive colour for gardeners, there are some that love it and some that dislike it with a passion however there is no way around that it signals the first days of spring. It makes me so happy to see this first colour in the garden.

There are so many things to do in the garden and so much early planning for a summer packed with flowers. I’m concentrating on cut flowers this year. I want to see what grows best in my garden, then I’ll enjoy the cut flowers in my home for the summer and hopefully harvest the seed for my own use next spring. At the moment I can’t manage to get through a garden centre without buying another packet of seeds. There could be worse faults I suppose. I’m a great fan of growing from seed. I get to choose the plants I want in the colours I want and hopefully have a successful flower harvest. If you are interested in learning more I will run two workshops on this subject from seeds to vase this year. The first in Nyon with the Swiss Gardening School on Tuesday 16 April sign-up here and the second in Chèserex in the walled garden of l’Heure du Thé on Tuesday 11 June (sign ups via Instagram in May).

It was a noisy and busy Saturday in my garden this weekend. The strimmer was used to clean around the raised beds, the scarifier scratched up the moss and dead grass, the mower took its first loop of the garden (a high cut) to get things started and the blower blew all the excess clippings into a nice pile to be collected and thrown onto the compost. There is lots of moss, there are tons of daisies, a few dandelions and thankfully not too many thistles. I walked the garden with my handy Fiskars tool and removed the baby thistles from the lawn in preparation for bare feet in the summer, there were quite a few. While I’m quite relaxed about leaving the dandelions in situ as an early gourmet nectar meal for the insects, I’m afraid the thistle in the lawn have to go. My garden is located in an agricultural area with fields and woods and hedgerows filled with all sorts of wild flowers and grasses and all the seeds they produce. There are really only two “weeds” that I actively pull from my garden, thistles and the very pretty tall invasive daisy.

A section of my garden is left wild and while I add wild flower seed to it every year I really just let it be. I cut it towards the end of the summer in August, leave the clippings to sit for a few days so the seeds fall out and then rake it up. It is just getting going now and will soon be filled with wild flowers and long grass and lots and lots of insects.

Walking the garden as often as you can allows you to see the areas that need some help or some work. Perhaps a fence needs a repair or a bird feeder needs re-fixing to its post. Spending a short time on a regular basis means that these pesky jobs get resolved early before they become bigger jobs. I turned the water back on outside and discovered a hole in the short hose between the tap and the hose roll – I got soaked so that’s the number one on my list for this week.

It is turning into a super spring for blossom. Take the time to stop and enjoy the early cherries and the magnolias – their flowering period is so short making it all the more precious. If you are in the market for a new flowering shrub or tree, take a photo of something you like and head off to your local garden centre to see if you can find it (you can also use the plant identifier on your phone). While you may not be able to enjoy this full season of blossom with your new plant at least you will know what it should look like next year.

I was late in digging up my dahlia tubers. I cleaned them and stored them over winter in big crates wrapped in newspaper. Some of them are showing signs of life so I will move them into pots of compost and let them grow on until the soil warms up and then in May I’ll move them into their summer spots. The pots will be kept outside in a sunny and protected space next to the house until I’m ready to transplant them. Like many of you I garden on heavy clay which remains damp and cold for the early months of spring, dahlias don’t like the cold. How do you know if your soil is too cold, pick up a handful in your bare hands if it feels cold when you squeeze it, it is too cold. Don’t be fooled by the warm sunshine the garden is still quite chilly, so be patient.

Yellow shallots have been planted outdoors as have some scallion seeds, fingers crossed they will manage to get growing. The courgettes, chilli peppers, aubergines and cucumber are scattered around inside the house as are all the flower seeds. I’ve just run out of window ledge space inside and I am favouring my flowering seeds over my vegetable essentials at the moment – hence the scallions going directly outside. I will be able to run out and find scallions to add to my salad this summer but I may not be able to find cosmos for the table. Now you know where my priorities lie.

The greatest threat to my success in the garden is going to be a lack of water. I’ve prepared all the raised beds with layers of leaf mould, cardboard, newspaper and compost. I’m hoping that if I continue to do this year on year I’ll see a great improvement in the capacity of the soil to retain humidity. The next greatest threat are weeds. They take up moisture and nutrition from the garden beds, they mature and set seed at a fast rate therefore multiplying in volume many times over a growing season. The best way to deal with weeds is little and often. Hoe regularly especially on dry and sunny days, small weed seedlings will not manage to survive against this type of intervention. Keep up the weeding – every time you see something that shouldn’t be there get rid of it. Established weeds are strong and difficult to dig up – I’d rather be doing something else.

Garden Events

This is a small selection of the many garden-related events that I’m interested in. Let me know if I’ve missed your favourite.

The annual Morges tulip festival has just begun and will run until 14 May, this year’s theme is Countries of the World. There are many beds within the Parc de l’Independence filled with 300 different varieties of bulbs. Nine beds have been designed by young apprentices from the Green Spaces and Parks department of Morges. 60 varieties of bulbs can be ordered for home delivery in September in time for autumn planting. But, if you can’t wait until then the sale of the festival bulbs will be held from noon on 14 May. Many activities are organised throughout this period including a guided tour every Wednesday morning and Saturday afternoon during April. See the website for full details.

Journées des plantes Domaine Reinach, La Motte-Servolex 6-7 April, (formally held at the lac d’Aiguebelettes). An hours drive from Geneva close to Chambéry this wonderful mix of over 70 French growers and plant experts will be ready to share their knowledge with you. While they don’t have a website their FB page has plenty of photos of many of the exhibitors. This one is always worth the journey.

The spring edition of Journées des plantes et des jardins takes place at the Château de Coppet from 4-5 May. With late opening on Saturday until 22:00 including a live musical concert it is the ideal way to get ready for summer. With over 70 exhibitors from plant specialists to pool experts, there is something for everyone.

Le petit marché aux plantes du Jardin botanique, takes place for the second year on ascension Thursday 9 May from 10:00. The botanical gardens of Geneva hosts this small plant fair filled with local growers of perennials, fruits and vegetables, and trees and shrubs including one of my favourite perennials team from Trélex, Rémy Jaggi. Staff of the gardens will be present and available to answer all your horticultural questions.
Don’t forget that these gardens are open for free everyday of the year from 08:00-17:00.

Journées des Plantes à Vaumarcus, 17-19 May (opens at noon on Friday). This annual lake-side event now in its 28th year is situated half-way between Yverdon and Neuchâtel. Here they bring together a wide range of growers and experts for one of the largest plant fairs in the area. You’ll also find plenty of garden accessories and a spot for lunch. Entry is Chf 8.

A brand new event is coming to Nyon. Natures en Fête will be held in the old town of Nyon from 24-26 May. The exhibitors and events will wind themselves around the Château de Nyon, along the promenade des Vieilles Murailles culminating in the l’esplanade des Marronniers. There will be educational activities, creative workshops and themed walks to discover the local wild flora and fauna in Nyon along with stalls selling plants and other gardens and outdoor design related products. See the Ville de Nyon website on 15 April for further details.

Gardens to visit

If you need a break from your own garden and are looking for some inspiration why not explore these two local gems:

Jardins des Iris, Château de Vullierens is now open every weekend until the end of April as of when it will be open every day for the spring season. The 300 varieties of iris and lilies are no longer the only flowers to see in these expansive gardens, Vullierens is now the home to a vast collection of tulips, peonies, roses and rhododendrons along with some beautiful sculptures and an art gallery.

The restored medieval walled garden in Yvoire, Le Jardin des Cinq Sens is well worth a visit and will reopened for the season on 12 April. The best way to access it is to take a lake boat and arrive in style.

Garden Courses

Hester is busy running courses at the new home of the Swiss Gardening School in Nyon. See the website for full details and sign-ups. I shall run two of my most popular courses at the Swiss Gardening School this spring, from seed to vase on Tuesday 16 April and summer garden pots on Tuesday 14 May. I shall repeat these two courses in Chéserex in the walled garden of l’Heure du Thé later in the year. From seed to vase on Tuesday 4 June and summer garden pots on Tuesday 11 June, sign-ups will open in May.

I hope you are busy back in the garden, enjoy the blossoms and keep up the weeding.

Happy gardening.


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