Is there any light at the end of the tunnel that is this summer?
When I decided to go into horticulture as a job as well as a hobby, the allure of being outside was an important factor. The thought that I could store up as much sunlight as possible during nine or ten months of work each year, enough to see me through the dark of midwinter, was hugely appealing. For too many years I had travelled to and from work in the semi-darkness, only to spend the daylight hours indoors, under artificial lights. And in the months of GMT that often meant seeing precious little sunshine from one week to the next. None of which was good for me.
This spring and summer were supposed to be the start of a new dispensation, one in which the rhythms and cycles of nature would have a daily impact on me. No longer would I be insulated or cocooned from the natural world of weather and seasons, but they would start to dictate my working (and non-working) life to an unprecedented degree.
Well, of course, that has happened. But not in the way I imagined. Yes, I have become completely immersed in the changing seasons and the fickleness of the weather, a slave to the forecasts and the barometer. However, this has coincided with the most unpleasant and unforgiving spell of spring/summer weather I can remember. Low light levels and overcast gloom have predominated for weeks now, to say nothing of the persistent rain. I find myself suffering from what I can only call summer-SAD. And the cure, getting out into a garden – mine or a client’s – and working, is frequently denied to me by the cause. I don’t mind working in the rain: but there is little pleasure to be had in it, huddled in waterproofs, head down towards the soil, no sun on one’s back. Seeds planted early to steal a march on the season perished long ago in the wet, cold soil. Plants remain stunted and unhappy because of the lack of light and warmth. Those that have done well have suffered a battering at the hands of torrential rain and blustery wind for weeks.
How low are my sunlight-batteries going to be come the end of the year, I ask myself anxiously? If I go into the winter in deficit, how much of a lux-deficit can I sustain? I can only hope that the remaining summer will improve, and that we may experience a sunny August/September (even October?), the sort of late summer weather we have had in a few recent years.
And yet I am still optimistic and positive about being a gardener. There is nothing like it, and I am as happy as I have ever been. If I can handle this summer, I tell myself, anything approaching a ‘normal’ year will be (in Raymond Carver’s lovely phrase) ‘pure gravy’.