The problem with this glorious semi-retired state in which I now exist is that there is a temptation sometimes to try to rush ahead with gardening jobs that are in truth best left until the year unfolds a bit further.
The past winter — and yes, I know its not over yet — has been the first since I moved into this essentially lazy state without a big January holiday. It is also the first year when I have had plenty of time to put everything to bed in the autumn.
I completely dug the allotment, applied manure to the bits that needed it, and built a sturdy frame from odd bits of timber and blue flexible water pipe. I also took geranium, penstemon and various other cuttings and bought a ridiculously expensive heater (Monty has one so I needed it) to keep the greenhouse frost-free.
I even planted tete-a-tete daffodils in clumps and made the odd pot lasagne or two. My lasagnes are not usually ones you boast about but this one involves crocus, daffodils and tulips buried at different levels in pots that are then topped with an evergreen heuchera. The idea is that the bulbs pop their heads through the leaves of the heuchera in turn as spring progresses.
So, come January and all was pretty tickety boo. There were a few jobs that needed doing like putting non-slip gripper on the wooden steps where I went a over t one wet day last autumn. But I was essentially ‘jobbed out’, and started to get listless and maybe even fractious (so I’m told 🤨).
It felt a bit like the winter blues which Monty has acknowledged suffering from in much greater measure. However, mine didn’t come with the clocks going back in October. It felt more like going dormant after Christmas and repeatedly sticking my head out from under the leaves to see if it was yet spring.
When I did stick my head out on Facebook one friend excitedly proclaimed: ‘You’re back’! But it was by then February, which is an altogether better month in that the light levels are starting to rise, the new daffodils are poking through and the cuttings in the greenhouse are actually growing.
February is a month for optimism. It might still be bloody cold but when the sun shines you know spring really is just around the corner. The trouble is that I am a naive and impatient optimist, so I go tramping around on soil that shouldn’t be worked till it feels less like a sponge. I also buy plants that are growing in a warm commercial greenhouse and expect them to flourish in the Arctic cold.
However, I have also had a glorious bonfire up at the lottie, pruned the roses and clematis and am about to chop back the grasses. I have also made plans (lots of ‘em), including how to fill the vast space that has been opened up by removing my diseased viburnum and by chopping out a 20-foot conifer that was plain out of place.
And I have fallen in love with primulas and specifically with the delicate beauty of the auricula which originates from rocky places in central Europe. The range is massive, the common denominator being the exquisitely delicate colours, petals shaped like bears’ ears and powdery white or yellow centres. Other gardeners get addicted to monster onions — my affliction is nothing to do with size.