Monday, 30 April 2012

The Spring and I

"And the more different colours and kind of plants with their varying arrangement you can enjoy, the happier you will be in pushing out your frontiers of experience.  Never stay still or you'll slip backwards.  Never stop experimenting.  It is important not to accept received ideas automatically."
     -- Christopher Lloyd in "Proud to Be Vulgar"
         24th September 1994
         In Notes from the Garden

Gardeners face all sorts of challenges. Mine include (but are not limited to) cat poop, slugs, lack of time, shade, heavy wind and rain, stony soil, and marauding pheasants. Some of these can be cast in a different light with the right attitude and solution; others are only annoying, like damage by slugs and snails.

Early this year I was roused and begin sowing seeds. I begin wandering with the aim of finding of rebirth out in the confines of our little patch of land. I was biting my lip and deciding where and what to plant, with the undying but often dashed hope for a fruitful summer. My gardening books refuse to stay shut.

The beginning of a rock garden, saxifrage in competition.

I reckon I am a sort of vampire, because I feed on others who are passionate. I am most inspired by people who encourage you to experiment with your planting, and to employ your own combination of expert advice and intuition. One of my favourite slivers of wisdom is to learn from the land, watch nature, use your senses and observe how and where things grow.

I too have an affinity for lists, and I like to browse those lists telling what to grow where: which plants like full shade, which ones fancy a little and those who need to bask in full sunlight. So many resources are available to the curious gardener, however I do find an opposing comfort in that fact that no rules are hard and fast. You are best learning lessons on your own, from your own experience.

This year I have planted multiple containers full of salad leaves underneath towering trees. I haven’t sought advice on whether this is a good idea, and in truth I assume lettuces do require more sun than I’m going to give them. However, in this instance I am going to find out for myself. I want to see how they cope with what I give them.

My more sunlit patches are going to be filled with onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, peas, and chard, and perhaps a few other things that I throw in as and when.

My cold frame is currently housing dwarf sunflowers, spring onion "lilia", nasturtiums, borage, thyme and a sempervivum (houseleek) experiment.

In January I discovered that beets can survive the winter outside. Late last summer I planted a few and forgot about them, poor things. I found them slightly weary on top but firm on the bottom, and then earthy and sweet when boiled and eaten.

Up here on the Pennines there is no way to know what summer will bring. Four seasons can show up in one day. What better way to learn by doing, at the mercy of nature and accepting the unpredictable.

To be continued...

xxx Laura