I’ve had a pretty lousy week, paying for a run of lovely, busy weekends and the welcome gift of some work with a health back-lash that I have been in denial over until I finally had to concede. I took a day off.
After a lie-in, followed by breakfast in bed with a good book, I eventually emerged to a day that seemed more like June than March. There was only one place to be – outside.
I gathered my gardening notebook, RHS encylopedia and a couple of seed catalogues (to remind me what I had sown and why) and plonked myself at the garden table to do some pondering.
I’ve been promising myself for months now that I would take an audit of which seedlings had thrived and could be usable in my continuing revamp of the pond bed. Its all very well dreaming up planting schemes in the depths of winter, but on a limited budget for buying “grown up” new plants I eventually have to just work with what I have. I don’t know about you, but I can lose myself for hours staring at a patch of garden, imagining how it could look in my mind’s eye, flicking through books to check height, spread, flowering time. The air was warm and still, and heavily scented by the Magnolia stellata. Time flew by. I made lists of seedlings that had made it through the winter and tried to work out which might actually flower this year and where I was going to have to be patient.
One of the things I love about the Chiltern Seeds Catalogue is that they indicate which perennials are likely to flower in the first year from seed. Last year I watched in amazement as the Knautia macedonica that I sowed in early March turned into robust flowering plants. In my bid to fill my Pond Bed with more colour this year, I sowed a lot of new perennials last Autumn and more this Spring, hoping to repeat this success. The Geum ‘Cooky’ seedling above left looks far too tiny – as do its four companions – to offer any colour or bulk this year, but the trusty catalogue assures me that they will burst into flower – bright orange flower – in late Spring. The Achillea ‘Cassis’ on the right however, is unlikely to do any such thing. I will harden it and its companions off and plant them out anyway, they will hopefully put on lots of growth this year, I will get to enjoy the foliage, and next year, they should start to give me colour.
Sitting there, looking out over the pond, seeing not what is there now but what could be there, I kept having to check myself, because it will take time for all this planning and sowing and planting to really come to fruition, for me to be able to see how it actually works out. I am worried about not having enough blue to tone down the other colours. I have numerous seedlings from a lovely blue campanula, but they won’t flower this year. I have had problems with damping off so I don’t have the Nepeta ‘Blue Infinity’ plants I was relying on – they do flower in their first year – and there is, as yet, no sign of the one I planted out last year re-emerging. Mind you, I was convinced that I had lost all the Echnicea purpurea plants but there are signs of new growth. Time will tell! I do have a lovely Aconitum ‘Sparks Variety’ from Beth Chatto to plant out. Not from her personally, you understand! Purchased from her nursery with birthday money…
I think annuals will have to play a big part in providing the colour I dream of – I am delighted that lots of the aquilegias that I thought I had lost to Botrytis earlier in the year have bounced back, obviously not minding the move to the plant house at all, but despite being glad that I gave them a second chance they won’t flower for me this year, and I have totally failed to grow Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ and Cenolophium denudatum from seed. There will be gaps, which was making me feel a little fed up. Then the post arrived and with it a lovely gift from Esther – she had offered ‘Baycorns’ to anyone who wanted to try growing them, and I was enchanted by the idea and said “yes please”.
Esther sent me two, so we agreed I would try one in a pot in the greenhouse and the other in a pot in the coldframe, and see what happens. I have nothing riding on it other than curiosity and hope, no planting scheme depends on these little beauties thriving, but I will be thrilled if they do grow. Esther also sent me a coffee bean to try, though we think perhaps that I may get better success if I sow a fresh berry rather than the dry seed – perhaps another parcel. Whatever happens, it put a big smile on my face to get these little plants-in-waiting in the post.
Finding a corner for the baycorn in the greenhouse was easy – just one small pot after all – but elsewhere my desire to experiment with lots of different tomatoes and chillies this year is creating space issues! On the tomato front I have Olivade, Marmande, Gold Nugget, Ferline, Tumbling Tom (both red and yellow) and Gardener’s Delight. On the chilli front I am trying Scotch Bonnet, Thai Dragon, Twilight and Navaho. They have been ousted from the light box (I need that space for newer seedlings) but I have left the greenhouse insulation up in fear that a cold snap could set them all back – though they are looking healthy and robust so far.
The emerging beetroot and sprout seedlings, together with the cabbages, won’t be ready for the allotment for a while, but I’m hoping to get up there this weekend and plant out more potatoes and broad beans. An allotment update is long overdue, and hopefully I will get around to it early next week – another casualty of my health dip, as is catching up with blogs. I just couldn’t bring myself to go inside and sit in front of a computer screen – too many emails and too little energy – so I just sat, dreaming of plants and enjoying the light streaming through the fresh growth.
And since I had been surrounded by the scent of the Magnolia, warmed by an unseasonably strong sun (hope that wasn’t summer I just had), and entertained by the collared doves and blue tits nest-building, I can’t really complain. Fresh growth, new life, all reminders not to get bogged down. Have a wonderful weekend in your garden, and sorry I haven’t been around much on the blogsosphere recently _ I’m looking forward to catching up. After a cup of tea outside enjoying the sunshine!