The weather this week has warmed up, and is pretty typical of April rather than May, it seems: sunshine and showers, or, as Scott said, ‘smiles and tears’. Not ideal for our schedule of weeding and mowing: this is becoming increasingly ad hoc!
Plant of the week has to be our still blooming Dicentra superba, (Bleeding Heart), flowering in triste elegance in the central borders of the Kitchen Garden. Its rich pink looks lovely with the new leaves of the Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’. Also just coming into bloom are the collection of azaleas outside the Chapel, many of them old specimens. Their scent is not apparent yet, but as they open the air should be filled with their sweetness, particularly from the yellow flowered Rhododendron luteum. One of my roles at Abbotsford is to catalogue the plant material, old and new, and a big challenge will be identifying the rhododendrons down the driveway, a task for which I think we will need specialist help. Some of them could be old, as the planting appears to follow the route of the new driveway, realised in the 1850's by Scott’s granddaughter to compliment the new wing of the house.
Another joy is the blossom on the heritage apple varieties planted last year as an espalier. The trees are still very small, but the buds of apple blossom are so prescient of the bounty later in the year. In association with the apples we have planted a double row of Nepeta (Catmint), having divided both our stocks of the N. racemosa and N. ‘Walkers Low’ in March. The intention is to make the espalier, which stretches the breadth of the Kitchen Garden, look even longer with the soft silvery blue tones of leaf and flower, heralded at either end by the contrast of the richly coloured Rosa Brother Cadfael.
Last week in a fleeting moment of sunshine and low winds, I spotted two Grey Wagtails on the North Terrace lawn looking very smart, and a red flash through the trees of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. All the colours on the estate are brightening, with the beech trees coming into leaf, their young growth glowing across the muddy swell of the River Tweed, which has been in spate for several days now. For a few days one can see through the filmy growth of the young leaves to the structure of the branches and boughs: a double delight. We have borrowed some cattle from a local farmer who is a botanist, and who is as keen as we are to see the already rich meadow flora of the Upper Haugh increase in diversity. The young ones, six Aberdeen Angus in all, have stayed close to the fence for the first 24 hours, with the four resident horses standing nearby on the other side. There has been little movement of either. A curious contract whose development I will watch from the office window.