Oak before ash

Oak before ash, we’ll have a splash;

Ash before oak, we’re in for a soak.

As I write it is raining, and I am breathing a sigh of relief. The ground has been getting very dry and hard in recent days, and I’ve been out with the watering cans every evening at home, which is very unusual for April. The days have been very warm and sunny too, often with a drying breeze, all of which has contributed to the condition of my gardens. There hasn’t been a proper soaking rain since the third week of February. 

At The Farm, where the soil is pretty poor in most parts of the garden, grass seed sown a few weeks ago to repair bare patches has lain fairly barren. I re-re-seeded those patches again, having seen that some rain was forecast over the weekend. Established grass is also starting to look a bit parched, so mowing has been scaled back until there’s been some rain to green the lawns up a bit. One of the drawbacks of not being a resident gardener is that watering is a difficult thing to manage. More so still at The Farm, as there is no running water in the Walled Garden. A watering can dunked and filled in the river has to suffice, which is challenging to say the least.

Where the long south-facing wall has been repaired the border at its foot is in a dreadful state. Brick ends and lumps of old mortar from the repair work have been trampled and scattered underfoot while the builders did their work. In the long term there is now, more than ever, a strong case for digging out the entire length of the border and starting again with new soil. However, that’s not going to happen this year, so I have chosen some flowers which might at least stand a chance in the currently inhospitable conditions. Californian Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) positively adore stony ground, as do Field Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) and I have sown lots of them; Cosmos too is ideal for this location. I hope that in a few short weeks this part of the garden will be ablaze with oranges and reds. It might not be subtle, but it will make a real difference. 

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