Belated welcome to 2016

Blogging has taken another unplanned and entirely unofficial sabbatical of late. No particular reason why, just a lack of motivation. And if I am not motivated to write then why, dear reader, should I expect you to be motivated to read?

Nevertheless, the year has been trundling along nicely enough, with plenty of work to be done, and plenty do-able too, in spite of the wet and inconsistent weather. Yet again we’ve had no winter to speak of: without checking, I think we’ve had six frosts since November, and never more than two together. I don’t need to bore you with tales of flowers appearing way before their normal season – whatever ‘normal’ means any longer.

My largest current commission, a wholesale replanting of a garden in the New Forest, has been on hold as the ground is too waterlogged to begin the task of removing turf and creating new borders, let alone planting anything new. Elsewhere, though, apple trees and wisteria have been pruned, weeds (which continue to grow) have been cleared and plans made for the coming season.

One client has asked me to create a soft fruit garden for him. He already has a very aged plum and an apple in the garden, and has got the bug for preserving and cooking with fruit. So, raspberries, strawberries (to grow in redundant Victorian chimney pots), black and red currants, gooseberries, blackberries and loganberries are all going in. Sadly the supplier, having to struggle with the weather too, isn’t able to get them to me just yet, but it’s a lovely project to work on. I have even sown the seeds (metaphorical as yet) of peaches and apricots, and perhaps figs, as the garden has a terrific old south-facing wall to provide sun, warmth and shelter.

My allotment, pretty much a lost cause last year, has also started to get some attention. Raised beds have been cleared, and the old dining room carpet has provided welcome cover for the largest area of bare earth. There is still a lot to do, but an early start never hurts. Chillies and broad beans (’The Sutton’) have been sown in the greenhouse, and will be joined by more early sowings as the weeks pass. A good range of sweet peas, sown last autumn, are also doing well, and are bushing out after having their growing tips pinched out. 

One consequence of the mild weather has been a general shortage of garden birds. On chilly days there are more in evidence on feeders and bird tables, but generally it’s been a thin winter for birds in the garden – as they’ve been more than happy to stay out of town, foraging happily in woods and fields still full of food. 

Rooks, magpies, and wood pigeons foraging in the winter fields – illustration by Charles Tunnicliffe, from ‘What to Look for in Winter’ (Ladybird, 1959) 

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