Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The garden takes a battering

If God is an Englishman, then he is most certainly not a monarchist. There might have been a few hours of sunshine on Saturday, but when shove came to push, the Jubilee pageant saw dismal weather.

It can hardly be surprising that the 90-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, having stood for hours in the chill and damp on a windswept barge, was consigned to hospital yesterday with an infection.

And while we're on the subject, isn't there something faintly wrong with a situation where his 86-year-old wife is applauded – nay, expected – not to be with him in hospital but just continue with the whole shebang that probably put him there in the first place?

It's a timely message – that we don't really need retirement (and pensions).

But the weather didn't do much for the garden either. The rose bush, battered by wind and rain, had left a confetti of white petals slicked to the patio by the time dawn broke. It has occupied that plot in the garden almost since we moved in, when we made a slight – and totally uninformed – effort to Do Something with the space.

The Other Half wanted a white rose. I wanted red. We planted both. The latter died, rapidly. I remain unconvinced that The Other Half didn't persuade one of the cats at the time to pee it to death or something, in an act of Yorkist revenge.

Everything was still decorated by baubles of rain; the bronze fennel looking as though it had been hung with tiny Swarovski crystals. The beauty of such sights, and the delicacy of the raindrops that hung on, were just about the only obvious compensations.

The tarragon looked sad and the first spike on the lupin, which had only just fully opened it's delicate, fuchsia florets, had got a serious case of the droop.

The lemon tree has thrown off more than half its leaves with the alacrity of a sex-starved guest at an orgy. On this, a search of the internet by The Other Half revealed that it is quite standard if there are extreme changes of weather. And it seems that they can and do recover.

The surge of heat, followed by drastically reduced temperatures, drenching rain and blustery winds, had also pretty much finished off the pansies and violas that had given us instant colour back in March when I started the gardening project.

I sat out under grey cloud yesterday morning, sipping a coffee and wondering where to start - and dreading going through the gate to see how the beans and peas were doing.

Eventually, I hauled myself into the carpark. That any growth had happened at all had been a surprise.

Only a couple of hours after sowing that plot, torrential rain had turned it into a swamp. I was convinced that seeds would have got moved around.

Erecting a mesh and bamboo tent has been a big help. The one bean seedling that had come up seriously out of its original drill had snapped during Sunday night, but everything else was fine. With extra plastic pegs that had arrived just before the weekend, I made the mesh even more secure and taut over the delicate seedlings.

The speed with which they're growing amazes me; it'll be time to make bamboo and string wigwams very soon.

Back in the garden proper, it was time to start dealing with the that snail question. George had suggested that perhaps the reason that no snails had found their way to a beery demise in my improvised snail inns was because the pots need to be buried almost up to the rim.

Which is a bit of a problem when you're planting largely in pots. I dug a hole in the large pot that the lemon tree lives in, finding small snails in among the dying violas.

One pot now sits in there. Another was planted in a small, old – but spare – plant pot and placed amongst various plants.

None of the four rectangular planters are wide enough to put one in. But since they're currently sitting side by side, I have improvised, wedging two pots between each pair, leaving the top of each pot flush with the tops of the troughs.

Next up, some more sowing. New baby salad leaf seeds went in to replace the ones destroyed by a gastropod terrorist last week.

Then more lamb's lettuce: I only realised, when sowing the first lot, that the packet was a little out of date. Some have started coming up, but I want far more.

And then another short drill of radishes in one of the other troughs: the first lot are still alive – just – but the weather (I assume) has not seen them develop as quickly as the seed packet and the books led me to expect.

Amazingly, the strawberries and the tomatoes have survived the inclement conditions.

The former is nursing a mass more fruits, in varying stages of development, while the latter is now showing its first, delicate flowers, and now giving off the smell we think is the fruits, but is actually from the stalks.

And talking of smell, perhaps one of the fiddliest jobs in the garden is nicking the tiny flowers off the thyme – but the compensation is in the glorious perfume.

The tomatoes were further tied, along with the vine, which after a slowish start seems to be hellbent on soaring to the skies. I'm not sure why I'm surprised at this: it struck me, when considering it the other day, that in the south of France we've seen vines pruned back brutally to keep them low, sitting naked in the red soil at Easter, and being harvested by the end of summer.

The first nasturtiums are starting to flower; a deep orange. More colour will come soon.

I ended the session with sun starting to melt the cloud away, and with my spirits lifted. The entire process is a learning curve.

And while there are far more things to deal with than I ever realised, generally speaking, I don't think I'm doing too badly with a project that, to be honest, I had no idea was going to grab my attention in the way that it is.

Now could we have some steady, decently seasonal weather, please?


  1. Don't forget to 'deadhead' the roses:


  2. Many thanks for that. I've been deadheading flowers, but was wondering just when – and how – you did certain ones, including the roses and lupins.