Scenting the air with a strong 'narcissus' fragrance, Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Citrina', has been producing it's soft citron-yellow heads of small pea-flowers since late-autumn. The display has been steadily building since the first flowers opened months ago and it is now in full flush - there must be a thousand posies open on our largest bush. Don't be put off by it's letter-heavy name, it is easy to grow, only requiring good drainage, sun and a warm position to succeed.
The first of the Giant Bugloss, Echium pininana, have opened their flowers. Endemic to the Canaries, half-hardy and vulnerable to hard-frost, they enjoyed the mild winter and this year's display looks to be spectacular. Arising from the big bristly rosettes of foliage, the flowering stems grew quickly once the weather warmed and they may tower to 3m. Thousands of small blue or white flowers will open in succession for months, much to the delight of hungry bees. They will die after flowering, all their energies spent after producing vast quantities of seeds - seedlings will appear all over the garden wherever the soil is disturbed.
Volunteers have completed the new bench plinth below the old church wall and the 'greenfly' bench, re-positioned, has found it's permanent home. The previous position was rather screened from our neighbour's watchful eyes and plenty of less-than-savoury business graced it's seat, here it was regularly flipped over to crush the planting behind it. Moved a few metres, turned and secured to the wall, our plants are safe from harm, casual surveillance is encouraged and sat here, very pleasingly, the view is much improved too.
As the garden gets busier and busier for the warmer months, the 'NO...' signs, concealed behind the scratch-frosted perspex on the noticeboard, just haven't been cutting the mustard. Cleaned up and re-mounted by the Sunday volunteers, it should now be very clear as to what are the Phoenix Garden no-no's.
No signs, as yet, about not using the garden as a toilet, but then we can't have everything.
It is surprising that, after a whole month of greedy wood pigeons stuffing their beaks on it's un-opened buds, that the great white cherry had any left to open. Yet now clothed in brilliant white flowers there is no sign of their eager feast. Enjoy their left-overs while it lasts - in a week we'll be sweeping them up.
One of the three young apple trees at the north end of the garden has struggled to establish. They've all been rather slow to get going, being planted in grass is far from ideal for young trees, but for Pitmaston Pineapple, planted within 'ripping' distance of Sheila's bench, the past few years have been a limb-breaking struggle for survival. Each year, as the new shoots grow, they have been ripped off or snapped. Last year the complete head of the tree was decimated, leaving just one branch hanging from a strip of bark. Strapped up and braced, we had hoped it would heal but fungus developed in the wound and it had to be removed. To give this tree one more chance, we have now grafted Pitmaston Pineapple wood to the trunk. In an ideal world, the graft would take and rapidly grow to form a new 'head' for the tree. In this one, we wait to see if it will simply prove far too tempting for those irritating interfering fingers.
Wollemia nobilis, the Wollemi Pine, was thought to have been long extinct, being only known from the fossil record, with fossils dating back to 200 million years ago. In 1994, the discovery of a hundred or so living trees growing in a gorge north-west of Sydney, Australia, made headline news across the world. Propagated in their thousands they were made available commercially and now anyone can grow this strange and ancient tree - and we do. The tree here is now developing male cones, dangling from the tips of the branches like warty-catkins. Despite it's interesting history, our gardener is less than impressed, and says "it really is a remarkably dull plant".
We have just been informed that the lease has now been re-allocated for action by Camden's legal department, and have been given assurances that this will be completed as soon as possible. As this has been with Camden's legal team for well over a year already, we won't be holding our breaths, but it does seem appear the process has re-started.
The new signs for the entrance gate are on order, designed to display our new branded welcome on the way in. On the way out, they will remind everyone to take their rubbish with them. Once these are up these extremely gluttonous bins will be retired - no doubt to the disappointment of all the rats that feast here every evening.