Friday, 3 May 2013

Spring in yellow and blue

 "And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils."
William Wordsworth, 1804

daffodils in white
Spring has well and truly sprung in the Gibside walled garden and daffodils are without doubt this season's stalwarts. Immune to attack from our resident rabbit and deer populations, proof against the coldest, darkest, wettest winter weather our climate can throw at them, they return each year to lavish us with their golden smiles. Their "sprightly dance" continues this week, and whilst we can't quite lay claim to Wordsworth's ten thousand at a glance, there are certainly plenty to delight even the most discerning eye.

Narcissus 'Double Campernelle'
One of my favourites is the miniature trumpet daffodil 'W P Milner' whose shyly downcast heads and delicate pale yellow colourings seem to bring their own light to shady nooks. Our long border plays host to a showy Victorian favourite, 'Double Campernelle'; a daffodil that flaunts its ruffled petals as gaily as any cabaret dancer might twirl her skirt. Inside the walled garden hosts of daffodils fringe our productive garden plots in shades of lemon, white and richest gold.

Daffodils aren't the only yellow flowers to herald the spring either; they're joined by primroses, cowslips and another of Wordsworth's sweethearts - though the bane of many a gardener - the celandine. Around by the orangery, mahonias are fast coming into bloom in fragrant acid yellows, and the faces of pansies mimic the colour of sunshine, their petals stained with contrasting deep dark centres. Even the trees are getting in on the act, and our Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), on the north eastern side of the orangery, is in full lime-yellow flowered splendour this week.

Hyacinth 'Blue Jacket'
and Norway Maple
Cool blues have always formed the perfect accompaniment to warm yellows in the garden, and it seems no other season's colourful pairings have quite the same natural beauty as those of the yellows and blues of spring. Though dormant through the summer months, delightful blue anemones come out to play in the light of spring, and ours, paired with some daffodil 'W P Milner' are a treat for those with half an eye on the ground as they wander towards the orangery from the walled garden.

glittering scilla
On the same path, and continuing through to the ice house wood, the tiny blue flowers of hundreds of scilla glow; these little woodlanders thrive in the dappled sunlight of our deciduous woodland. Once the leaves appear on the trees, the scilla flowers will fade away and they'll store up the goodness of spring sunshine in their bulbs for next year. Again, like so many of spring's specialities, these are miniature dainties, scattered like sapphires on the earth and it's only if you take the time to get up close and personal with them that you'll see their petals glittering.

in focus: Hyacinth 'Blue Jacket'
But if it's a real punch of colour that you're looking for, then head over to the orangery to indulge in the vivid tones of 'Blue Jacket' hyacinths. Forget understatement, here is a riot of flowers, massed and ready, in terracotta, the air filled with the heady scent of their blooms. This is surely the most magnificent of all the floral displays that are on offer at Gibside this week.

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Also looking good at Gibside right now:

tiny white anemones in the woodlands

drumstick Primulas in the walled garden
metre tall Fritillaria imperialis,
just about to bloom, in the orangery

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