A beautiful garden in Crawley

PUBLISHED: 13:16 12 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:53 20 February 2013

A beautiful garden in Crawley

A beautiful garden in Crawley

Leigh Clapp enjoys the crocus carpet at Little Court garden in Crawley, one of the first gardens to open to the public this season

February can be a month of uncertainty is spring on its way or is there more wintry weather to come? It is wonderful though to get out into the cold, crisp air and experience the first burst of colour from emerging bulbs.

As the days begin to lengthen, stimulating the plant hormones, another season begins to slowly stir. By late winter a large variety of bulbs, shrubs and trees are ready to burst into a succession of blooms.

Bulbs are the early stars of the garden, turning shady areas under trees into carpets of colour. Mass displays in borders burst into show and as they die down are replaced by later flowering perennials. Even in a small garden you can make room for bulbs, whether in garden beds or in potted combinations.

The first bulbs to raise their heads are the dainty snowdrops and they are soon joined by the beautiful sheen of crocuses, opening their petals in the briefest glimpse of sunlight. With our milder weather bulbs seem to be bursting forth earlier and earlier. Nodding golden daffodils can be found mingling with drifts of snowdrops, crocuses, irises, hellebores, scillas and winter aconites in a tapestry of hues.

Owners again begin opening their garden gates for visitors under the National Gardens Scheme. Little Court, in the pretty unspoilt village of Crawley, opens on selected days through the season, starting with 3 days in February. Home to joint NGS County Organiser, Patricia Elkington and her husband Professor Andrew Elkington, this tranquil 3-acre garden is planted in a traditional style.

"I love trying to achieve the harmony between wildlife, plants and humans, so all can live peacefully together. We also like to place each plant so that it enhances or complements its neighbours," Patricia comments.

Herbaceous beds surround an expanse of lawn and there is a small orchard of gnarled apple trees dotted in the landscape and the whole garden is protected by old mellow walls. The highlight in February is the massed display of mauve crocus, planted 50 years ago, accompanied by other spring bulbs and early plants.

"The carpet of scented flowers is so cheering after the winter, accompanied by bird song," adds Patricia.

The crocuses are dependent on temperature, opening as soon as the sunlight reaches them.

"They still look like a corps de ballet in lavender dresses even when not open. Thats why we open on 3 days in February, hoping for a good crocus day," enthuses Patricia. Also anticipated are the jewel colours of species tulips and nodding hellebores that are spread through the garden, under trees, along paths and in the garden beds.

Patricias tips for a spring display

Plant bulbs at least twice the height of the bulb, and tulips even deeper 6 inches.

Always plant generously for a really good effect.

If you buy bulbs from a bulb wholesaler (find them on the internet), the prices are very much less, and with a bigger variety.

Let the leaves of bulbs die down naturally, dont cut the leaves off early or tie them in knots, as the bulb has to renew itself via the leaves for the following year.

Some hybrid tulips do not flower well a second year so lift old bulbs to leave the ground clear for the following years planting.

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