Early Risers

After a week of gale-force wind, I woke on Sunday morning to stillness and sunshine. I didn’t waste any time in pulling on my wellies and going out into the garden.

Pussy Willow

After a week, I felt starved and ready to reconnect.

Geranium foliage and unripe tulips in the rose garden.

I had spent an hour or so the day before in the greenhouse sowing seeds, but nothing beats being outdoors.

Lupin foliage, Hyacinth ‘Jan Bos’ and red peony shoots.

These are the first tulips in the garden. It is a variety I don’t particularly like, ‘Exotic Emperor’. I bought it as an alternative to my favourite green-and-white tulip, ‘Spring Green’. I don’t like the spikes on ‘Exotic Emperor’.

Tulipa ‘Exotic Emperor’

These are old bulbs now, and so the flowers are small (‘Spring Green’ is a much better choice: they have a lovely soft, silken texture and the flowers don’t get any smaller in subsequent years). Having said all of that, I am enjoying these tulips when I look through them and onto the peach tree in blossom.

Tulipa ‘Exotic Emperor’ with the peach tree in blossom behind.

The peach tree has elegant upward curved branches which remind me of a candelabra.

Cherry blossom

When you inspect the blossom closely, you can see the raspberry anthers clustered around a yellow stigma. The blossom will not last long. It has a week or so to be pollinated by visiting insects. If the flower is pollinated, then I will see a fuzzy little swelling of a peach in a couple of weeks.

Peach blossom

Cherry blossom is also swelling.

Buds on the cherry tree

This is one of three raised beds planted with tulips. In one of the beds I have left a space unplanted at the centre so that I can sow sweet peas later today. I find that direct-sowing sweet peas works well for me. I run out of windowsill space at this time of year, so if there are any seeds that can be direct-sown, they will be.

The bulb which attracts the most attention right now is the hyacinth. I find hyacinths to be the easiest of bulbs. They are reliably hardy and perennial, and bulk up each year. They are little fountains of colour spouting from the border. They are the link between the crocuses and the tulips. Their scent is the sweetest and strongest of any spring bulb. They can perfume a whole garden.

I’m not sure what variety this one is, because it was already in the garden when we moved here. Lilac and pink hyacinths are not a combination I tend to plant, but I do like them here. The silver-grey of salvia foliage gives an ethereal quality.


I have learnt not to touch hyacinth bulbs when planting them. If I touch my face after touching a hyacinth bulb, I come over all itchy and prickly, and have to shower in cold water. But really this is the only trouble the hyacinth causes. Gloves are an easy solution.

This is another clump I didn’t plant. I love the dark purple stems.

‘Woodstock’ is my favourite hyacinth. I can almost taste blackcurrant cordial when I look at the bulbous throats of the flowers.

Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’

‘Jan Bos’ will not be for everyone, but I love a flower that shouts.

Hyacinth ‘Jan Bos’

Most of my daffodils are out now, but I just wanted to capture this bud. I love the green striations on daffodil buds. The yellow-and-green combination is one of my favourites.

Daffodil bud

This is Narcissus ‘Jetfire’. This is one of my favourite little daffodils. I love how its petals are swept back as if it is diving.

Narcissus ‘Jetfire’

The little blue flower to the right of the daffodils is Scilla siberica. I utterly love this little spring bulb. Its flowers gleam like little sapphires.

Scilla siberica

I love the ultramarine stripe down the centre of each petal. The indigo stem adds to the effect.

Scilla siberica

I planted scilla with crocuses and tulips in pots. I realise now that the scilla are too tiny for this treatment. They are crowded out by their neighbours. All is not lost though. The scilla are adding an interesting blue tinge to the shrivelling crocuses.

Crocus ‘Pickwick’ with Scilla siberica and tulip foliage.

I rescued a few scilla for putting in an espresso cup on the kitchen table. You can see them at their peak in my Instagram feed here. I have enjoyed watching their petals shrivel and become cerulean blue to match the anthers. I have enjoyed watching the seed-pods swelling. The textures are beautiful. Petals, anthers and seed-pod are all dusted with a little pearlescent sparkle.

Scilla siberica seed pod

Also rescued last week were these double daffodils. Their bloom is so plump that they would have been felled in the storms. There is no sadder sight than a daffodil with its face in the dirt. Once indoors, these daffodils have been perfuming our kitchen.

I enjoyed peering around corners this morning, and seeing the sunlit trees beyond. The sunlight had not crept high enough to touch the plants at knee-height. There was a sense of plants peeping out from the shadows.

Muscari (grape hyacinth) and multi-headed daffodils

Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’ is a brilliant plant for peering around corners. You can appreciate the structure of its inflorescences when you look through this plant, and beyond.

Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’

Actually, this is a plant that looks wonderful wherever it is planted. From another angle, I love it with the red brick of the house wall behind.

Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’

If we have a full day of sunshine today and tomorrow, I expect that these lily-flowered tulips will be open within the week. Maybe my Saturday post will be full of tulips?

Tulipa ‘Westpoint’ in bud

‘The Mindful Gardener’ is here to help you connect with the natural world. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life. I hope that these posts inspire you to look closely at what is growing near you. Just five minutes outdoors makes a big difference to our wellbeing and sense of connectedness with the world around us.

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30 Comments Add yours

  1. margaret21 says:

    That post was every bit as good as a cool walk in the garden. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Margaret for your lovely comment.

  2. Emma Cownie says:

    Such a riot of colour! Hyacinths have such a powerful scent, it’s a shame we can’t smell your garden down the internet.

    1. They do! I need to cut some for the house. They are probably the strongest scent of any flower I grow.

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        They are a glamorous planet!

  3. Beautiful Ali! I can hardly wait to have all of that here. But for now, I will swoon over your photos.

  4. A lovely post Ali 🙂

  5. Thank You, Your post is like a breath of long-awaited spring!

    1. That’s lovely to hear, thank you Nedra.

  6. susurrus says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. I’m a fan of N. ‘Jetfire’ too. The picture that made my heart race fastest? The one of your little raised bed filled with emerging tulip leaves is the essence of spring. I like the unusual angle, giving a view of the garden, the blades of grass on the outside (some metaphor there) – everything about it.

    1. I’m glad you liked that one! I spent a while trying to get it right. There are lots of views like this that I love, but don’t always manage to capture. I’m going to try to work on that!

  7. bcparkison says:

    I would be hard pressed to do anything except sit and watch the color unfold in your garden. Beautiful

    1. When the sun comes out, that’s the best thing to do.

  8. Chloris says:

    Lovely spring photos, so much to enjoy in your garden.

  9. Heyjude says:

    N. ‘Jetfire’ seems very popular this year. I must add it to the list. I also made the mistake of planting unsuitable bulbs as pot toppers – I used white anemone blanda and they have been crowded out by the wallflowers and tulip leaves. Hopefully I can plant them somewhere more suitable next year. Lots of tulips ripening here now, I do hope they don’t all peak too soon!

    BTW I know you order from Claire Austin. I placed an order at the beginning of the month and received no confirmation. A few days ago I emailed the company asking if the order was OK (payment had been taken from my credit card). No response. Today the order arrived. No warning. Is this usual? Seems communication is not a strong point.

    1. I usually get an email confirmation and then plants arrive about a week later. Once when I asked a question it took a while to get a reply. But the plants are great! 😀

      1. Heyjude says:

        I find the lack of correspondence quite disconcerting. Just hope the plants survive!

  10. Good morning, Ali! I have grape hyacinths edging the front entry bed but not doing anything yet, only the crocuses. Several years ago I planted the hyacinths like yours; they were charming for one season, but never came back. Too cold/dry/harsh here? Soil too clay-like? What do you think?

    1. I garden on clay; they get a good baking in summer; some benefit from the mulching I do for the roses. Temps get down to -5 typically.
      Muscari are great for really thin soil, or gravel.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful. Isn’t spring wonderful

  12. Eliza Waters says:

    So nice to see your garden blooms, Ali. We’re still waiting for the snow to melt!
    Happy Equinox!

  13. Ann Mackay says:

    I love that peach blossom and your hyacinths are such wonderful, rich colours. (And I have ‘Jetfire’ here too…they seem very reliable.)

    1. They are a wonderful little daff!

  14. Cathy says:

    Thank you for sharing all your lovelies, Ali – and it was interesting to read what you say abour Exotic Emperor v Spring Green. This has been noted!

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