Spring has come suddenly, excitingly and enthusiastically. Last weekend the sun shone, warm and bright, and green became the dominant colour within hours. It is always amazing to see Spring emerging, every day looking newer and greener than the day before, but this year it has been like watching a time-lapse film. And all the more thrilling for having been made to wait so long. Plants are tumbling over themselves to put up new growth, to bud, to burst into leaf, to flower. In the garden, as I look out of the study window, I can see tulips, daffodils, primroses, anenomes, Chionodoxa, marsh marigolds, magnolia all flowering together, all at once. Successional planting has been triumphantly gazumped by the need of individual plants to get going.
There is a day in May, always just one day, when the full, broad palette of greens in the garden reaches its wonderful zenith. It won’t be long before it is here – and it will make my gardening year.
Up at the allotment, the soil remains a bit on the chilly side in spite of the sun we have been enjoying. So I haven’t sown any seeds directly into the earth yet. Courgettes, broad beans (‘Red Epicure’), and pumpkins (‘Atlantic Giant’) are all straining to get out of their pots, but the weather forecast suggests a bit more cooler weather over the coming weekend, so they will have to stay in the greenhouse a little longer.
It is pleasing to know that the Courgettes sown by Molly’s birthday party guests, 10 days ago, are all doing well. I am urging people to keep them indoors, and repot them if needs be, until things warm up a bit.
Yesterday I sowed three pots of Sunflowers for a Which? Gardening trial. Known only as A, B and C, it will be interesting to see how they turn out. I also planted out some Heucheras in the front garden – ‘Spotlight’, ‘Georgia Peach’ and the ubiquitous ‘Palace Purple’ – all of which had been brought on from plugs: lovely plants the lot of them.
William had been tasked by his teacher to establish the meanings of annuals and perennials, so I sent him off to school this morning with chapter and verse (as well as complicating matters with hardy and half-hardy, and biennials). I am meant to be going into his class to talk about plants soon, so maybe I’ll have to arrange a test!
Finally, eagerly awaiting the imminent delivery (yes, Amazon – sorry) of two long-awaited new books. Monty Don’s The Road to Le Tholonet will doubtless be beautifully written, and will build on my appreciation of French gardens and gardening, as his recent TV series did. It also gave my wife the term ‘jardin ouvrier’ as a passable translation for ‘allotment’ – where hitherto ‘potager’ had to serve, and didn’t quite do the job.
John le Carre’s A Delicate Truth will also be wonderfully written, and will absorb my waking hours for a few days if I can eke it out. I firmly hold that le Carre is one of the great, truly great, writers of the past 50 years: that he is still treated snootily as a ‘genre’ writer says a lot about the worst side of English literary culture. Le Carre has created as vivid and unflinching a picture of our country in its fading post-imperial grandeur as any writer could have done, and his world is every bit as arresting as ‘Greeneland’ or any other author’s imagined realm. That le Carre – by his own admission – gets angrier with the passing years only adds to his astonishing achievement. Having read extracts from the new novel, I look forward to it – as to every one of his books – with boyish excitement, and a gnawing regret that it will be over all too soon.
To have two great books on the bedside table at once is almost enough to make one wish for rain, or a really bad cold.