From top to bottom: winter witch hazel, spring tulips, summer oriental poppy, autumn crab apples.
The flowers on our little witch hazel tree are already brown and shrivelled. It was flowering back in January, and on bleak grey days the ragged clusters of russet petals made it look much like a tree invented by aliens. A welcome sight nonetheless. Otherwise the garden is presently dank and soggy – a scatter of snowdrops and one or two hellebore flowers opening.
But there are other signs of spring – tulips and daffodils shooting up several inches tall, and the oriental poppies making their first leaves. Also the Evereste crab apple tree which we moved last year, and feared we had killed in the process, is covered in tight little buds; so fingers crossed.
Indoors, I’m fretting to start sowing – packets of seeds, old and new, in piles on the window sills, seed potatoes set out in trays in the conservatory. But it’s all too early to do much outside – the Shropshire soil still too cold and wet for sowing. I’m told by a fellow allotmenteer that the acid test for knowing if the soil is warm enough for growing is to sit on it with your pants down. Yep. Bare bottom pressed to the earth. If you can bear the baring, then it’s OK to plant. But this is not a procedure I could recommend for communal gardens, not unless one’s fellow gardeners are suitably forewarned.
And so, keeping my pants well pulled up, I’m stemming my impatience by starting off globe artichokes, coriander and basil in the kitchen, and nurturing my sweet pea seedlings. They don’t mind the cold conservatory, and probably could go outside now. I shall also sow some leeks in pots, and maybe do the same with beetroot. And if I were truly organised I could also sort out my seed packets into month order so as not to miss the boat as I did with several things last year.
But it’s all so exciting – another seasons’ round in the offing. More things to learn; more things learned to put into practice. It is, after all, the gardener’s way – to travel hopefully.