Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Garden in Spring

The snowdrops have faded and the daffodils about to burst. Both of them late this year owing to the snow. And in between times aconites, hellebores in all their glory, iris and crocus have flowered. Violets and pulmonaria have sneaked in between them and now the tiniest little blue gentian has flowered in the gravel drive under the oak tree. A glorious abundance of colour.

The shrubs have not been quite so quick off the mark: walking up on the wooded hills at Emmetts, the National Trust garden in Kent, rhododendron and azaleas are in wonderful colour and I can only imagine in such gardens at Exbury in Hampshire, or Stourhead in Wiltshire, the display of these dramatic shrubs must be coming into their peak.

In my garden, less acidic, the wonderfully scented pink flowered viburnum bodnantense and the winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, are in bloom. The first flowers on the bare wood and, although leaf is a wonderful clothier, one can really appreciate the flowers when they are not disguised with green. The honeysuckle is actually an evergreen – but it is such a straggling, poorly leafed bush in the winter that you could be forgiven for thinking it deciduous. But the scent! And both are hardy – they have to be in my frost pocket.

This is the time of year that I look at my borders and think they are empty. Some sign of life is there: the odd shoot, the occasional leaf, the first inkling of a mound of something. I must mulch and quick. Keep down the weeds now and warm up the soil with a blanket of compost and, you never know, the plants might be the victors. Leave it another few weeks and I'll have a fight on my hands; the weeds will win.

Lately, on a freezing day, I spent a happy couple of hours online planning my vegetables. What a list I've ordered! I can see them now all growing in glorious technicolour, looking like all those beautiful potagers we see in magazines. Oh yes, I'm good at the planning. Great at imagining. It’s the growing and the looking after I'm not so hot on.

So it's only the foolproof I grow – the ones that don't take too much TLC. Nothing too precious. Courgettes of course. Perpetual spinach with the addition of ruby chard this year - I fancy a bit of colour; cut and come again lettuce; beans; tomatoes - preferably the bush variety that needs no care and attention - herbs; pumpkin and squash. Best Beloved has cracked leeks, so they are on the list. And I have heard the golden beetroot is delicious so I'm having a go at that.

And, yes, I am still struggling on with my asparagus bed. Every year it is threatened with annihilation but every year it gets a reprieve. How come everyone else has asparagus coming out of their ears and I am still only producing enough for a monk on a diet? Mind you, Freddie was caught in the act - eating the spears just as they surfaced. Thought he had found the perfect grass (for medical purposes of course) for a quick nibble. Chicken wire over the top should put paid to that little trick. Any tips (excuse the pun) gratefully received.

Now I only have to make sure that I plant them in time, rotate as I should, remember to water and hope the summer brings forth fruit or, in this case, veg. Vegetable gardening for me really is a case of hope over experience.


No comments: