Having spent the first third of the year complaining about feeling locked down in some kind of post-Covid hangover, from mid-April onwards I’ve been keenly aware of the sap rising. Energy levels are up, both physically and intellectually. There has been a fair bit of perspiration and propagation, but also – more importantly – a focus on inspiration.
The last few years have been so difficult on that front, with galleries closed and movement difficult. So in the last month, as the weather has warmed, I’ve been soaking in visits to the Eden Project and Trelissick in Cornwall, Hestercombe in Devon, Chelsea Physic Garden, the Garden Museum and Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds, plus have knocked back books about Joseph Paxton, Gertrude Jekyll and the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement in garden design. Later this week it’s Chelsea Flower Show, and meanwhile there is endless joy in country lanes filled with cow parsley. I don’t know as yet where any of this will lead…as my old English teacher used to say, it’s all grist to the mill.
Let’s start with the perspiration…
Propagation and preparing the soil is such a part of life now that I barely register I am doing it. Since I last blogged in April, the sun room has become full of nascent seedlings, all becoming leggy for want of light (I am used to this). Sunflowers, scabious, chard, tomatoes, squash, it’s all there. Meanwhile the outside space is full of trays hardening off; I’ve moved the more slug-vulnerable ones to the top of the wheelie bins. There’s been hours and hours of weeding, as I attempt to get the grass and buttercups into some kind of control.
After last year’s pitiful efforts with the sweet beans and peas, I’m attempting a new approach this year. The sweet peas are in deep pots, trained up twine and bamboo sticks, and are catching the afternoon sun by the back door. I’ve also put in a few rows of peas in the veg trug, working on the assumption that they’re more likely to get watered if by the house than on the allotment, which I only get to once a week, if that.
As for cropping, I took few photos, but the pale Purissima tulips were a triumph – even bigger than the earth (!). As they faded, the alliums, lupins and sweet rocket are giving vases of pink, purple and white, and the Sweet Williams are waiting in the wings. My plan was to extend the harvest so that there was something to pick from March through to November – so far, so good.
No comment here, just images of a few weeks of spiritual and intellectual nourishment, starting in Cornwall.
At Hestercome Garden in Devon, we explored the amalgam of 18th century landscape park, full of follies and vistas; grand Victorian terracing, and an arts and crafts masterpiece by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens.
The Garden Museum and Chelsea Physic Garden are rife with generations of history, heritage and knowledge.
In the Cotswolds, the arts and crafts garden at Snowshill Manor is framed by the perfection of English hedgerows in Maytime.
May is surely the most wonderful time of the year – and there’s still the glories of June and Midsummer to come.
Also this week/month:
Harvesting: Sweet rocket, allium, lupin, lilac, soft herbs. Had a steady crop of narcissi and tulips from the allotment during March and April. I would be harvesting lettuces but they’re taking ages to grow.
Sowing/propagating: EVERYTHING. I started most things off later than usual, end of March and into April, and as yet there seems to be no harm done.
Planted out: Last year’s chrysanthemums, broad beans, peas, potatoes, lettuce. Direct sowed carrots and parsnips. Everything else will wait to be planted out until warm weather is guaranteed. In the garden, planted out salvias, hardy geraniums and achillea. Waiting on the tulips to die back before putting in the dahlias.
Reading: Biography and works of Gertrude Jekyll, biography of Joseph Paxton, history of arts and crafts gardens. Incidentally, working on two projects that have bamboo as a sustainable resource and the social justice/healing power of gardens at their core.
Visiting: Eden Project, Trelissick, Hestercombe, Garden Museum, Chelsea Physic Garden, Snowshill Manor, plus don’t forget the glory of an English hedgerow in May.
Cooking and eating: Asparagus, strawberries, rose wine. I still feel too busy to cook, which is sad, and I should sort it out.