Monthly Archives: March 2012

Where is March going?

Crikey, it’s mid-March and the clocks are a week away from changing, how did that happen? It has been, in the words of the great Garrison Keillor (sort of), a busy week in constant gardener land.
People have clearly got the sense of spring in their veins as I have been gathering new clients/projects busily for the past ten days or so. Very gratifyingly, this looks like keeping me busy for the spring at least, and it will be a help when the wee girl starts nursery-school after Easter and I have a bit more flexibility with my working hours. And, of course, the days will be longer which helps.
Last weekend was fantastic here, warm sunshine and a real feeling of growth in the air. I spent all day Saturday at the allotment, getting raised beds in good order, planting some early potatoes, and re-roofing the shed. I have decided that gardening is an occupation better pursued on all fours, nose down in the earth where you can see and feel what’s going on: maybe that’s why I don’t really regard lawn-mowing as a gardening activity? Certainly it’s best done standing up… But everything else is about getting your hands mucky and some soil under the fingernails.
Having got a good stint at the allotment done on Saturday, I spent Sunday in the garden here at home doing a ‘spring clean’ of the big beds. Long overdue it was too. I have only recently realised how timid I have long been as a gardener, and conversely, how satisfying it is to be bold and make some significant changes every now and then. So several long-standing shrubs, which had got very woody and tatty, came under the loppers, and masses of bare earth emerged from the gloom ready for some new and more lively planting.
Incidentally, is there a proper name for all the dead strawy-stuff that accumulates in herbaceous borders over winter – bits of last summer’s growth which have died-back and lie strewn about? Often it’s been semi-deliberately left for overwintering bug purposes etc, but simply makes the beds look untidy come the spring. To myself I call it ‘scrat’ – I’m not sure why, but it may be that one clears it whilst ‘scratting around’ in the beds, or that the plants which generate it are often ‘scratty’ – or maybe both. Either way, in the absence of a better word, ‘scrat’ it is.
I also entered the lists against my old foe Ground Elder, which is starting to poke through here and there. What a persistent blighter it is, but I quite enjoy our annual trench warfare, especially as I finally (after many years) seem to be winning. Unconvinced by its culinary potential, I do seek to beat it into submission with my bare hands. I’m told it tastes like parsley, but I never wanted to have beds full of parsley in my garden either…
So, after two days, I have a lawn heaped with shrub-cuttings – which will go to the recycling centre today, all being well – but apart from that a much happier-looking garden: and a much happier gardener.
PS I discovered that watching Gardeners’ World on iPlayer on Sunday night was a much more relaxing experience than watching it live. Looking back on a weekend’s gardening done is so satisfying.

A drizzly Saturday morning (remember them?)

This week saw some more planting in the front garden, which is now looking really good. There is a feeling of structure to it now, but still plenty of space for more plants as the season moves on. The back garden looks a bit neglected by comparison, probably because it has been, so that’s the next thing to tackle. I know that, left to its own devices, it would look perfectly good by midsummer – it always does – but I am itching for change. In particular the first lawn, which has never been a success, is in my sights for treatment: the grass (mostly moss at the moment) is to go, and a gravel garden will replace it. Last night I had the idea of trying to incorporate a pond too: not sure it will work, but I will think about it. Ponds are such good value, especially for children, and our present one is tiny, if frog-filled.
My wee girl’s birthday present is to be a playhouse in the garden, so a base for that needs to be constructed. Fortunately there is a good spot for it, with little or nothing growing (a horseradish will need moving, and a few naturalised primroses which can go into the front, but that’s all). It will be tucked in behind the apple tree and against a fence with Jasminus growing over it, so should feel a bit ‘secret’ for her. She is very keen on ‘houses’ of one sort and another, so this will make it more fun for her to play in the garden while I work in the greenhouse nearby.
Have been busy in other folk’s gardens this week, and making the most of some glorious afternoons – it’s been misty and murky here in the mornings. A huge Buddleia davidii came under the loppers yesterday (actually a triple-pronged attack of  loppers, pruning saw and secateurs), necessitating several journeys to the recycling centre. I have an enormous pile of cuttings to remove from another garden too, which has built up since the autumn, and now needs moving ahead of some fence being replaced behind it: said fence is leaning at an alarming angle, though not due to the rubbish, which is simply in the way.
My most exciting project at the moment is pulling together a garden in preparation for the owners’ Silver Wedding celebrations in June, which coincides with the daughter’s 21st birthday – so a big outdoor bash is planned I think. Anyway, I have carte blanche and the brief is simply to make the garden look as attractive as possible by the end of June. I imagine this is a bit like it feels to do a show garden: everything has to be at its best by a certain date. But with the additional need for whatever I do to be sustainable thereafter, it’s not a stage set, it’s their garden. My head is buzzing with ideas and thoughts – what a welcome feeling.
Today was to be an odd-jobs day here and on the allotment, but  may have to reschedule the odd one until a dry day. But the feeling of drizzly rain is terrific, we do need days and days of it – hard though it is on Mrs G and the boy who have been stuck indoors all week, and need some  fresh air.
Was reading some pieces in Ruth Petrie’s Notes from the Garden last night – a collection of gardening articles from The Guardian. I had forgotten all about the Percy Thrower scandal, when he was sacked from Gardener’s World for doing ICI adverts – but I had also forgotten that he only presented GW for 7 years, it seemed like he was there forever when I was watching as a small boy. I do remember that the scandal was quite a talking point at the time, especially in conversation with older relatives, of which there was a lot in those days. Christopher Lloyd’s contributions made me laugh out loud a few times – not something that can be said of much garden writing – but my favourite was a brief review of Derek Jarman’s Garden from 1995. The description of photographer Howard Sooley, whose photographs illustrate the book (which I don’t actually have, but will now look for), is glorious: “Sooley himself…looking like a giraffe that has stared long and hard at a photograph of Virginia Woolf.” I have no idea what Howard Sooley actually looks like, but I think I would know him anywhere…
PS there are some lovely photos of Narcissus at