“Though April showers may come your way” goes the famous lyric and it might well have helped if it had been trilling away in the background as a reminder that they do indeed bring “the flowers that bloom in May” when we went to visit Keith Crawford for this week’s programme.
Keith’s garden makeover is well and truly under way and his happy band were working away at the terracing and hard landscaping, as we looked out through the window from the warmth of the kitchen, while they worked away in the rain.
We did eventually join them, in case you think we are really mean, but it was a case of coffee first (thank you Keith) and a chat about what has happened vis-a-vis the garden since our last visit and the plans for the next phase, before we ventured outside to talk, not about flowers... but about tree planting.
The Crawford family garden stretches up a steep slope at the back of the house and as the immediate area of terrace is beside the kitchen, many of the plants Keith has chosen will have a culinary connection.
An Amelanchier, or June Berry, waiting to be planted will give flowers in spring, fruit in early summer and lovely fiery foliage in autumn.
A fig will grow spread-eagled against the garage wall, espalier fashion and herbs will happily provide that handy cut-and come-again easiness for a family who love to cook.
And presiding over the lower terrace with all those goodies to come, was the tree we had come to see which Keith was about to plant.
It’s stylish Plane tree, carefully chosen and grown in Ireland whose purpose in life will be to look impressive and unusual and to draw the eye up the streamlined steps and into the garden beyond.
So up the steps we went to take a closer look at the fledgling tree, with it’s hessian swathed root ball, it’s sturdy stem and it’s distinctive tracery of branches which are growing hexagonally, trained and supported temporarily by canes.
Like a giant organic awning, it will look really stunning when it is fully in leaf, and I can just imagine the broad flat leaves of the Plane tree dappling the light and twinkling in the sunshine (when it gets here)
You can hear Keith’s tree planting advice on this week’s programme of course and with it a piece about Alpines, those tiny and oh-so-tough plants, which grow indomitably up mountains in hard places like scree beds and snow lines and also in the gardens of dedicated Alpine growers like Pat and George Gordon from Bangor, whom we went to visit for the first time during the week.
The introductions were performed by long serving and dedicated show secretary, Patricia Crossley who was recently presented with the Award of Honour for her contribution to Alpine growing by the Alpine Garden Society across the water.
With spring so late this year and everything still waiting in the wings, growers and showers will be hoping that their plants will be ready, gorgeous and perfect in time to grace the show tables next weekend. If you’d like to find out more about growing Alpines and be truly inspired and impressed by the beauty of the plants and the skill of the growers, then why not go along to Greenmount College next Saturday, the 27th of April. Plant stalls will be open from 10 in the morning with the awards presented in the afternoon.
And while we’re talking about festivities it was lovely to be invited along to Bangor Castle during the week as part of the celebrations for Bangor Horticultural Society’s 90th Birthday. Before the speeches we recorded a short interview about the history of the society and in the course of the conversation the restored and lovely walled garden in the Castle grounds was mentioned with a real sense of civic pride.
So we made a return visit to Bangor, this time in daylight to see the walled garden in spring and to hear a little of its history and the plans for its future from Ian Beaney and Nikki Kerr.
Tulip-packed island beds were fat with buds about to burst in flower and the fountain was playing away at the heart of the garden, as local people strolled past or sat in the spring sunshine.
We look forward to our next visit when we’ll be taking a peek behind the scenes at preparations for Bangor’s entry into this year’s Britain in Bloom.
Roll on summer.