It’s not so much been a ‘comedy of errors’ lately as a column of errors. I do apologise.
Firstly, another reminder that Monmouth Seed Swap is being held this Saturday – the 25th (and not the 19th) and secondly, the website for the ‘great gardening trousers’ I shared with you last week is www.genus.gs and not the one I gave you.
I could give you all sorts of excuses for my muddled mind but I’m not going to. Suffice to say that if people never made mistakes, they would never have put a rubber on the end of pencils.
After cutting back some goat willow in a garden last week, I took some of the stems back to put in a vase indoors. I think they are beautiful.
Better known as ‘pussy willow’, they earned their common name as the male catkins of the goat willow look like a cat’s paws. The catkins are actually male flowers prior to blooming. The soft coating of hairs, which looks like fur, acts as insulation to protect these early flowers from cold winter temperatures.
Only male plants produce the furry flowers, although the flowers on the female trees are also decorative, resembling greenish hairy caterpillars.
Keep an eye out for both flowers.
If you keep fresh-cut pussy willows hydrated – as displayed in a vase–you can often see the whole flowering cycle and even the leaves coming out.
When the catkins mature, you will see lots of little yellow stamens emerge to cover each ‘paw’. They will have a tiny little amount of pollen at the ends. At this stage you could put your vase out into the garden, or on a balcony to let the bees benefit.
Keep an eye on the stems and you should see pale green, strappy leaves unfurl from the leaf buds. At this point you could push the stems into the soil or a pot of compost and hope they root. They will be in full spring growth so should be successful.
There are some lovely varieties available for your garden. Look for the fantastical pink pompoms of the Japanese pink pussy willow, the creepy, gothic-looking black pussy willow, and the rose-gold pussy willow, whose blossoms seem to glow. All eye catching at this time of year, although I must admit to preferring nature’s natural option. As well as the stunning white carpets of snowdrops blooming now, there are some beautiful crocus carpets about too.
Both of these bulbs are so much more effective if left to develop into these carpets, or drifts, and it is helpful for the bees too. It’s much less tiring for them to visit an expanse of pollen producing plants rather than have to visit individual flowers which are spread out–especially at this time of year.
Snow crocuses (Crocus chrysanthus) are one of the first flowers to emerge in the garden, blooming well before the fat Dutch Crocus (Crocus vernus), and bees love them. They provide a very valuable food source for early insects when not many other plants are in flower and naturalise very well in lawns and borders. The ones in the photo have spread into the lawn unintentionally but it’s impossible to chastise something so pretty and hard-working.