There is just so much to do.
The seedlings are growing up fast. My Sungold tomatoes are looking nice and sturdy in their modules on the kitchen window sill. The lettuces took a while but are coming along nicely and even the parsley has popped. Outside the curled heads of broad beans are just emerging from the soil, the covers are off the rhubarb and the grass has got a head start on the mower.
Good news: the tulips, which I planted so late it was almost February, are coming up fast.
In the woods wild and self-sown daffodils are giving way to wood anemones and celandines. I have seen my first pink campion and the nettles and thistles are bulking up, ready for the off.
The Shepherd’s Calendar
I have discovered, belatedly, The Shepherd’s Calendar (John Clare, 1827) which is about to be republished by Oxford Press with wood engravings by David Gentleman. Someone, and I am wracking my brains to recall whom, has been urging me to read this as Clare was a Northamptonshire lad. In March I read the section on March. Now it is April and, at last, I shall allow myself to read some more. It is such a treat, particularly, since we walk the same soil. Nothing really changes. The same mud sticks to my boots as to those of Clare’s ploughman who stops to clear the switchgrass that wraps around the plough (rather as these days we have to clean the threads that wrap around the bar of the vacuum cleaner). The rain rains, the sun shines, the wind blows and things grow.
So no time to lose.
Last Saturday I was in the garden from 10am to 5pm planting the second of the south-facing borders and wishing, perversely, for rain as my hose pipe isn’t up to the job. The tap’s tucked away down a dog leg and the water only emerges in a pathetic trickle, even on the flat.
What I need, I realise, are some dipping tanks. After this I’m going to hunt on eBay and see what I can find.
How to make a miniature woodland
Last week I drove over to visit Saga’s garden writer Val Bourne, who sent me away with a boot full of treasures, including cuttings from her extensive and very special collection, right. I am so lucky to have them and completely terrified of losing any. Many of the treasures are little woodlanders, primulas, pulmonarias, scillas and bergenias.
There is a patch under the holly popular with primroses so it should be perfect for these little things. It took an hour to yank up the trails of ivy - satisfying work although tough on the hands. I know I should have got rid of all the elder but I was running out of time. The pulmonarias were showing signs of flagging after two days in damp newspaper and the desperation to get them back in the ground was greater than the need to dig through the rooty soil to extract every last thread of elder. No doubt I shall rue the day.
Read Val Bourne's guide to creating a woodland area in your garden
Val also gave me some late summer plants, pieces of Helenium Sahin’s Early Flowerer, a nice solidago and some rudbeckia. There is no room for them in the main border – and anyway the colours don’t go with the rest - so on Sunday we tackled the pokers by the wall.
I was very excited by these when we first moved here. But when they came up the wrong sort of two-tone the love vanished. “Northamptonshire is covered with it,” said Val. Kniphofia ‘Atlanta’ was found in the garden of the Atlanta Hotel in Tintagel in the early 60s and proved hugely popular but this clump is a thuggish mess for much of the year and badly needs dividing.
The husband had to be prevailed upon to chop through the carroty roots and heave out the massive rhizomes. After a good forking through, and with the chucking on of a sackful of compost, this patch makes a nice bed for Val’s late summer plants. Which is very pleasing. We left a few pokers at the back to provide backdrop and a memory of how things were when we arrived.
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