OK, so, I’m going to keep this journal entry as normal as possible, which might not be that easy all things considered, but here goes…
This week I’ve developed something of a split persona between work and home life. Like many but not all gardeners, my situation has meant that I’ve been able to continue working whilst following good social distancing guidelines. I get up, take myself directly to work, keep an ample distance away from employers, work all day in two pairs of gloves, wash frequently, go home, put everything in the wash (me included,) and repeat. My already ridiculous hand washing routine has been ramped up to the point where hand moisturiser cream is now essential, not just an occasional extravagance and oily inconvenience…
Naturally I’m tuning in to the daily updates to see if that situation changes, but for the time being at least, in a unique situation I’m able to continue working alone and to cling to one of the few constants in my life, my work; something I’m incredibly grateful for.
In my work’s garden in Broadwell as elsewhere, the sunny weather has arrived and with it the feeling that the growing season is finally underway. Bees and butterflies have responded rapidly to the rising temperatures, the grass is growing keenly now, and the countless winged sycamore seeds that have lain between the Cotswold gravel have started sprouting – more’s the pity…
Over recent months the garden generally has been tidied and nurtured, and generally speaking is coming along nicely. I wrote weeks ago about restoring the walled garden too, and plans are established that will see this, in time, become an enchanting and very productive space. However, needs must, and with food supplies under threat comes a challenge for the nations gardeners to get out their dusty seed trays, wash them down, and to get sowing. This has gripped me too and with spring vigour I’ve set about sowing both at home and work with a plan to supplement food supplies if at all possible.
My first image below therefore hints to some some work based Grow Your Own activity. I’ve sown a range of seeds including courgettes, carrots, lettuce, French beans, mustard, radish and spring onions, plus onions, shallots, garlic, dill and basil – oh and trays of potatoes are a chitting too. It certainly feels like I’ll be Digging for Victory, but of course I’ll be wrestling with the established trend for No Dig gardening – Decisions decisions…!
Next up, a pot-washing image (one of my favourite Whichford basket weave clay pot designs as it happens,) which hints to all the re-potting activity going on at the moment. Some containers are simply being refreshed or top dressed, some are having a complete turn out and re-pot, and some display containers have been cleared out in readiness for a new season of display or veg growing – whichever suits the times better!
Moving on, the following four images simply aim to celebrate spring. Yes, we know the weather will be changeable and wintry yet awhile, but this week the daytime temperatures have risen and it has been so so welcome. To me, it felt like a warming, reassuring hug from Mother Nature!
In this image, a seven spot ladybird and its friend emerge from the velvety creases of a mullein leaf. Mullein, or Verbascum thapsus is a plant used historically for medical respiratory disorders. I’ve always admired this soft yet tough plant, and not least for its tall stems of yellow flowers. This last week however, when passing one frequently I couldn’t resist reading up about its uses again. I’m now convinced that along with Mullein’s other use as a substitute for toilet paper, this plant could very well hold the key to saving the human race! (You can now see why I’m not working in the health profession…)
Rheum palmatum or Chinese Rhubarb just had to feature here at some stage or another. I’ve watched this in my garden slowly push forward from red pimples on the side of its disheveled winter crown to feature tiny (by rhubarb standards) leaves that will I hope continue to grow and colour. It’s a real eye catcher and it more than earns its leafy space.
This Prunus is presently flowering in the garden at Broadwell. The tree is seriously old for a cherry, with a swollen lower stem well over half a meter in diameter. The crown spreads gracefully in a triangular form as if trained by a great Bonzai master, and whilst it does have some dieback, the remaining branches hold an abundance of blossom – it’s an absolute stunner and was humming with honey bees this week!
Last image for me today is this Vinca major, or periwinkle. Another medicinal plant as it happens, and pictured here blossoming on a sunny bank at work. The clearest blue flowers have been present for a while now, although the numbers have grown these last few weeks, until finally I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick photo. The flowers are exquisite and always make me smile within.
My week of activity, in summary: Monday – seed sowing, plus table and container shifting (A to B, then back to A again – all might be revealed in due course!) Tuesday – mowing, lots of, and container work. Wednesday – finished clearing an area alongside the pond, removing debris from an earlier tidying exercise I began with volunteers. Thursday – a day of planting, finding locations for numerous potted specimens. (This was a day of digging deep, literally!) Friday – a changed day of activity included, mostly, moving many semi-mature box plants and planting in a ‘slip garden’ area beside the walled garden.
To finish my journal this week, I did want to write a tiny bit about the situation we’re in – some observations from a humble gardener’s perspective. I realise though, that if I were to embark fully on that topic, it would draw me in and a day will easily vanish whilst I dally with the right words and thoughts – maybe I’ll devote an article to it at some stage…
Just for now, I will say this. Out of this demoralising time we find ourselves in, I have faith that we as a larger community will come back stronger, more connected, and will be more informed and focused on real world priorities. I have hope that we shall never again in our lifetimes take our resources for granted. If we ever return to it, I know that I’ll never again give a meaningless handshake, will never again hug without heart, and I’ll cherish every opportunity more than ever to explore our world freely.
Like all the gardeners and farmers out there, who are incredibly busy – I intend to grow my way through this time, to focus on plants and people, and as one of my favourite mugs states, I intend to: Keep Calm & Carry on Gardening. I hope you can too.