Spring Springcleaning


arum italicumI have been out of action for the past few weeks for a number of reasons:

1. This is the house where computers come to die – I have a serious problem with electrical goods – I go near them and they instantly malfunction. In the past three years I have managed to kill a cooker, an over, a washing machine, two dishwashers, a toaster, two hand held food processors and four – yes four laptops. I am now writing on an ancient and very creaky one kindly lent to me by Clodagh.

2. I have had in succession a tummy bug, a (completely benign as it turned out) health scare and two weeks of viral bronchial infection which completely wiped me out and heralded the January blues.

Miraculously on Sunday the sun came out, the rain stopped and it was a glorious day so I spent several lovely hours just pottering around in the garden and suddenly feel energised and back in the saddle. I had a lovely 30 minutes pulling out scutch grass – really can anything be more satisfying than tracing those little stoloniferous demons under the soil and yanking them out in a nice heap? After that pleasant interlude came a tiresome bit of general weeding – quite extraordinary how the weeds have flourished during the mild winter. The worst offenders are at present the bane of my life, oxalis (or sweetly and highly misleadingly sometimes called wood sorrel) and that other little curse of garden centres, the hairy bittercress. Next up will be creeping buttercups and cleavers, treats in store. I completed the last of the cutting back of perennials; battered and broken stems of sedum spectabilis, rudbeckia and asters, the ghosts of autumn past. Another happy half hour was spent highly optimistically potting on some seedlings which I am hoping are candelabra Primulas to replace the ones I have lost. I sowed some of these seeds last summer when they were still green, as one is instructed to do, but am unsure whether those seeds actually germinated and whether or not I have just potted on a lot of tiresome little new weeds. Time will tell. I have about 100 pots of perennials made from divisions since October through to this week. I recall as I did them I looked for some labels and discovered I had none. ‘Oh well’ I thought insanely, ‘I’ll definitely remember what is what, I’ll put all the red and orange achilleas together in one spot and the white ones in another, and sure I’ll know what that is when it comes up again…’ etc. etc. Of course I can’t remember what anything is and all the little groupings have inevitably become all jumbled up so lord only knows what garish riots of colour I will have sitting together later this year. I foresee a lot of urgent digging up and moving around with fingers crossed and buckets of water later on. Last job was trimming my box (fnarr, fnarr). Box is extremely easy and satisfying to propagate. It is a little slow to get started but once taken it comes along really well. If you are pruning yours, take a few of the longer strips and pull off the lower leaves and stick in a pot of compost and just leave them for a year.

Early spring has truly arrived though; it is wonderful to see the snowdrops, hellebores and arum italicum coming into their own. Later spring bulbs have begun to send up their shoots and blackbirds and robins follow my progress around the garden, digging for spoils in the disturbed earth.


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