‘Planting and Gardening addes much to the Health and Content of Man’
Moses Cook The manner of raising, ordering and improving forest-trees 1676
I wrote the piece below over a year ago. It is interesting as I really had done a lot more in the garden than I had given myself credit for, which of course I only now realise with the benefit of both hindsight and present observations:
Gertrude Jekyll said in 1899 that ‘the love of gardening is a seed that once won never dies, but grown and grows to and enduring and ever increasing source of happiness’, although I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, it can on occasion, as in every love affair, cause a great deal of heartache, not to say backache. After losing interest in the garden in late autumn and actually – most uncharacteristically for me -falling out of love with it during the winter months I am feeling cheered and galvanised again. I am not sure what it was about last autumn but I have never, ever been so slack in the garden. Perhaps it was on account of the fine weather and lack of rainfall that the demands of watering and staking plants drooping in the heat began to bore me. There were also the competing demands of the come hither and alluring seashore which enticed me away from ever-present and high-maintenance first love. Never was there such a year for swimming and chatting on the rocks between dips with friends in the long hours of daylight and warm sunshine. With the callousness of a faithless lover I turned my back on the flowerbeds. Weeds grew with abandon, stalks drooped, promiscuous plants were left to seed as others shrivelled with neglect and the patch of lawn became a small, yellowing meadow. By the time the spell was broken by the return to normal meteorological service I felt defeated by the amount of work to be done and decided to leave things until spring. I paid a heavy price for my philandering and had to get down to work extra early. the hellebores sprang from the traps particularly prematurely this year – not just the Helleborus nigra – so called the Christmas rose but all the hybrids popped up, including some plants that I don’t usually see until April. This only drew attention to the scandalous wreckage of the garden, so instead of sitting back and enjoying the early spring I had to get out in the freezing cold and do a lot of the jobs that should have been done months before. For all of you who worked hard on the autumn tidy up last year, March named after the Roman god of war is, appropriately enough, the beginning of the martial year and the true start of the gardening year when we gardeners once more set to war with nature, attacking slugs and beasties, weeding and pruning and trying to put manners on the garden.
So get out there and smell the fresh air, feel the first rays of thin sunshine on your back, listen to the frogs noisy lovemaking in the pond and fall back in love with the outdoors and get down to your jobs for spring as detailed below!