I’ve been feeling pretty fed up most of the time these past few weeks. I’d let myself get over tired and overwhelmed by a list of things I “really should be doing”. A couple of sunny days, some down time with a good book and the Winter Olympics, and some drastic list culling mean I am in a much better frame of mind now, positively Pollyannaish in fact! (Pollyanna, for those who don’t know, is a character in a book of the same name by Eleanor H. Porter. She is relentlessly optimistic, and prone to saying things like “I am so glad, glad, glad to be here!”).
For starters, we have used some worktop left over from having the kitchen done to create some more workspace in the conservatory. This is currently my indoor Seedling Central, complete with propagator, growlight and everything I need to sow seeds.
It’s early, I know, but the growlight means I can keep a small number of seedlings healthy and happy, so getting chillies and sweet peppers started together with some perennials that might flower this year if I am lucky should give me a head start, and make it all less of a sprint later in the year. Such a wonderfully optimistic thing to do, sow seeds, I love it.
Then there is the promise of fruit, in the shape of three plum trees. They were ordered last Autumn, and I was beginning to feel a little nervous as I hadn’t heard anything from the nursery. I hadn’t wanted to chase them up, as I know they must have been having a difficult time of it with all this wet and mild weather – the trees are field grown and supplied bare rooted – but February is fast disappearing. I needn’t have worried, they will be here towards the end of this week. Very exciting, even though I know it will be several years before I am picking fresh plums.
And then there was today. Yesterday the forecast was saying dry but overcast. Dry, yes, but overcast? Not a bit of it, another perfect sunny day, this time with no chill wind, so I awoke to the sight of the Witch Hazel lighting up the front garden.
I am so fortunate to have inherited a fairly mature plant, I know they are slow growing, and this one, whatever it is, is having a really good year, even if I can’t smell it at all. It lights up the front garden even on a dull day, but when the sun comes out it becomes almost luminescent, and I love seeing it against the grasses and achillea seedheads.
We had to put the green bin out this evening, the one for collecting green waste for composting, so I set myself to get the last area of the kitchen garden weeded and as much other space cleared as would fit in the bin. Its funny, I used to hate weeding when my parents – very occasionally – got me to help in their garden when I was a child, but nowadays I enjoy the almost zen-like calm that overtakes me when I am involved in such a repetitive task. Today I had the sun on my back, the sound of the birds, and the welcome sight of lots of worm action in the raised beds.
I’ve been really pleased with how well the raised beds have worked, they are easy to manage, I’ve had very few problems with perennial weeds poking through apart from grass encroaching around the edges, and most of my crops did really well. I am a little disconcerted at how much the compost level has dropped, I won’t have enough home made compost to refill them so will have to buy some in again, but it is bliss compared to my old allotment with its choking couch grass and rough and heavy soil.
My mood dropped somewhat when I turned my attention to the park border. When we had the kitchen done last year it completely took over my life and left me with very little energy for gardening. The park border was the area that suffered the most, becoming very weed-choked, and this year I am reaping the consequences in the form of a carpet of weed seedlings.
At least as I worked my way through the border, pulling up great handfuls of weeds, I was able to see all the fresh young growth already popping up. The soil here is really good, rich enough to nurture plants well but well drained too, and the weeds came out easily from the still-damp ground, revealing the frilly excesses of new growth on the aquilegias…
…the beautiful leaves of aster divaricatus, which will be moved to the back border when it is a little warmer…
…and a veritable forest of new growth on the astrantia…
I wish I could remember which astrantia it is, I don’t seem to have a single photograph of it in flower from last year! Ridiculous.
I love the sense of quiet excitement and anticipation that builds at this time of year, with the first new growth pushing up, the promise of bulbs opening soon, the thrill of suddenly remembering the colour to come later in the year. I even made a sort of peace with my beastly weed seedlings.
It’s all goosegrass, also called cleevers, stickyweed, even mutton chops, apparently! It does very well here. Very well. I have another huge swathe to clear in the front garden along the fence line. I’ll never be able to get rid of it altogether, it is prolific in the park next door, so I decided to get to know my enemy. Apparently, it is considered a sign of loam by farmers, and can be used as a medicinal herb. I am unconvinced about its efficacy in treating cancer, though apparently it was recommended as such in the 19th century, but it is apparently an effective diuretic, and as VP posted a few years ago, you can roast the seeds and make a caffeine free coffee substitute! Not sure I will be trying any of that, and I don’t really fancy the idea of using the young shoots in salads either, all those burrs that cause it to stick to anything and everything may be effective at helping it clamber up through other plants to reach the sun, but I shudder to think what the texture would be like on the tongue. The only thing I might be persuaded to try is cooking young shoots for a few minutes, perhaps with wild garlic leaves (I hopefully have some growing in a corner of the garden), and tossing in butter. I might even eat the results, though the description of it as being not the “most tasty of pot herbs, but is one of the healthiest” doesn’t really excite me! But hey, the green bin is full, you can definitely see where I have been working, and although there is loads more to do there is also loads more to enjoy, and look forward to. Definitely reason to smile.