late again

There was a time, about thirty odd years ago, when spring arrived in Shetland dot on time, or even a little earlier than its 21st March calendar date. Sometimes I wonder if this is just a fantasy, akin to those childhood memories where the sun shone all summer and winters were “cold and crisp and even”. It goes without saying that all Christmases were white – then.

winter heather


My garden had much less, in fact no shelter worth mentioning, yet I was out there, digging my vegetable patch in mid-March, wearing jeans and a t-shirt.


I wouldn’t be seen dead in that t-shirt now. It was a sleeve-less, pink-and-black animal print number – tigerish in a cute sort of way, and the date on the back of the photo reads 18.3.1980.


There’s nothing like photographic evidence. Pictures taken on 23rd March 2012 are proof that the garden is at least three weeks behind this year.


Spring seems to arrive later every year.


It’s been cold, cold, cold. It’s also been extremely dry, which is most unusual for the 3rd and 4thmonth of the year. Those endless Baltic Highs are more typical of May, when Shetland, if we’re lucky, gets its ‘little summer’.

spring's progress


Weeks of blue sky and stunning sunsets have made all those outdoor chores a pleasure, and there is a little progress in the garden after all. Some shrubs are flushed with new green, herbaceous plants are making new growth and everywhere at ground level, there are new snouts and noses. One little snout is especially eagerly awaited each year. As soon as Erythronium sibiricumhas pushed its twin-leaves above ground, they open to reveal large, white-centred lilac stars.

Chionodoxa forbesii 'Pink Giant'


The winter heathers, usually ready for a short back and sides in mid-April, still look superb.

Spring bulbs have enjoyed a much longer than usual flowering season. In shady places the snowdrops still look as good as new. All my chionodoxas, (glories of the snow), over in a flash during warmer weather, or gnawed to stumps by slugs during wetter springs, are truly glorious. Wedgewood blue C. luciliae is the most prolific closely followed by gentian-blue C. sardensis. I also have a nameless white form with large, upward-facing flowers and the beefy C. forbesii‘Pink Giant’.  

Lysichiton americanum



One of the most spectacular spring heralds at LeaGardensis the bog arum, Lysichiton americanum, the yellow spathes breaking through the ground look like short, fat bananas.


It would make a perfect companion of the tangerine-orange baubles of Berberis ilicifolia.

Berberis ilicifolia

Alas, the two need very different conditions.


Spring can’t be far now. A moorhen landed on the pond the other day and while I worked in the potting-shed I observed a Shetland wren pulling wads of moss from underneath plant pots and vanishing into an ivy-covered tree stump with them.




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