Clean break: The long, cold winter has made my garden tidier than ever
Yes, we know it's been a long, cold winter. And to be quite frank, we're bored of hearing about it. But has any good come of it, asks Emma Townshend?
Sunday 14 April 2013
Dear Gods of the Weather, we are the gardeners of the United Kingdom and we are frankly underwhelmed by your efforts so far re: spring. Underwhelmed, and very, very tired. We are tired, for example, of listening to other people moaning about the weather. There seems no end to the many ways in which British people can moan about the weather.
You can try to put a spin on moaning, of course. You can dress it up as a gag about Narnia and its eternal winter, or you can snort through your nose as you describe your latest chilblains in comic detail. You can even quote some science stuff about melting icewater from the Arctic sheet. But in the end we are all grey-clad characters sitting at the bus stop, long past time, waiting in the freezing-cold for the arrival of a (possibly mythical) big pink double-decker called Spring.
We are tired of ourselves as we exist in winter, too. We need a sunny day, yes (admittedly because we are parched of vitamin D and have the facial colour of someone not so recently deceased) but also because we need change. We garden to watch things grow and double and bloom and fall. For the past two months things have been in stasis. In early February the customary tiny buds appeared on trees, bulbs sprouted, and then you up there changed your minds and now look: there are still hellebores in full bloom. Yep, Christmas roses. The clue's meant to be in the title.
It is also doing our heads in to have the totally freaky combination of long evenings and, er, snow. We want to stop looking through catalogues and do some actual digging. And Mark down the road wants to build his decking. Each to his own. As for me, I would like just to be able to sit outside without feeling a freezing wind blowing down my neck.
It's also just plain distracting. An entire nation of gardeners is currently being led to wonder whether winter is genuinely just going to carry into 2014.
Perhaps it proves that when it comes to the garden, we live in the moment. We're a people who can't do the right packing for their summer holiday if it's raining outside. And at present, our large brains, capable of doing advanced calculations about various things, cannot quite do the maths about how it will eventually, definitely, without a doubt be at least a bit warmer in a month or two. Two days of gas left for the whole UK? Never mind that, I'm planning to have my heating on until September.
On the upside, Gods, I'll give you this: the April garden has rarely looked tidier. No weeds have been able to poke their interfering heads above ground level and the wisterias are still pressed neatly against the houses, proffering only blank twigs. The only spring bulbs to have maintained a presence are the irrepressible yellow Tête-à-Tête daffodils (right), which deserve an award for sterling bloodymindedness in inclement territorial waters.
I myself have done an extraordinary number of horticultural jobs for the time of year. I've swept up a metric tonne of twigs and finally pruned the shady elder tree of seven heavy branches. I've sawn up the wood and ferried it in a surprising number of journeys to the tip. I've put the cold frame on Freecycle for someone else to sow optimistically: I suddenly feel too old. I've repotted all the indoor plants. I've picked all the crisp packets out of the front garden and the brown stick bits out of the jasmine bush. I've made time to plant all of last summer's hasty garden-centre purchases. I've even cleaned all the windows. And still you Gods neither notice nor care.
And as a result, the strangest thing has happened. All of us looked at our tidy plots, ready-to-go visions of loveliness and order, and began to wonder whether this is a glimpse of gardening outside normal time. Gardening without the relentless tick, tick, tick of the clock, where the seasons stay still until all the necessary jobs are finished. Mmm… maybe you Gods were trying to give us mortals some kind of gift, after all.
Three that can still put a smile on your face
Gloriously carmine and covered in flowers from August for as long as the sun shines.
£5.99 a pot, crocus.co.uk
Begonia 'Crackling Fire'
This electric-fuchsia begonia will perform "in any weather" according to Suttons, which can only be a plus...
3 Super Plugs, £9.99, suttons.co.uk
Starts off tasteful green, turns bright pink throughout the summer. Irresistible smile factor.
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