Just what is that banging noise in my office? It takes me a while before I realise the source is my own head, banging gently upon my desk at regular intervals…… ah, it appears I’ve reached the point of paperwork overload.

You see this morning I have answered 13 emails, signed off 6 purchase orders, read through 9 CVs and it’s only 9.30…..clearly time to get out of here.

Luckily for me, my office is only a stone’s throw from the botanical gardens of the Zoo and some much needed inspiration.
As I pass through the gate I’m quickly greeted by the stunning white flowers of the cherry Prunus ‘Pissardii’. I find myself looking forward to the dark purple foliage that will burst into life shortly.

Most of the snowdrops have finished but Narcissus are beginning to arrive in waves; ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is splashing over the lawn borders and ‘February Gold’ has just started – yes it’s late but then we planted them late, didn’t we Mike Phillips?!

A little further down the hill and I’m taking in the scent of the many Viburnum and Mahonia; I love the way that scent carries on the breeze, it never fails to lift the spirits.

Approaching the pelicans, the eye is drawn towards the vibrant stems of the Cornus, complimented smoothly by the dark mulch that has been applied – good job Dave! I pass quite a few as I walk along the lakeside, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and ‘Spaethii’, along with the sanguinea ‘Winter Beauty’ and stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’.

To my right I pass a series of Prunus ‘Okame’, boldly announcing the arrival of spring with enough flowers to resemble a pink cloud.
Predictably the winds have shortened the life of the Magnolia campbellii – sigh, this happens in every garden I’ve ever worked in – but never mind, the buds of Magnolia stellata, M x soulangeana, M. ‘Leonard Messel’ and M. ‘Charles Raffill’ are getting ready to burst any day now.

Beneath the walkway the Hellebores are doing their thing and contrasting wonderfully with the Polygala x dalmaisiana – the sweetpea shrub. Delightful as this fragrance is, it doesn’t hold a candle to that of the nearby Daphne.

I arrive at the front of house building feeling totally revived by the beauty of the garden at this time of year.

By Giles Palmer, Curator of Plants and Gardens at Paignton Zoo.

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