One step forward, one step back. So it goes sometimes in March, a rather stop start kind of month. After the mild weather at the end of February we have returned to more familiar cold, wet days. It is nowhere near as bad as this time last year when there were snow drifts several feet high in places but nevertheless a reminder that the icy hands of winter are not yet relinquishing their grip without a little bit of a fight.
It is six on Saturday again, the brilliant theme hosted over at the propagator blog where gardeners all over the world find six things that catch their eye or spark their imagination.
1. Icing sugar
When the snow and frost come early in the year it can leave beautiful silhouettes on old seed heads and branches but there isn’t always much growth yet in the garden. A little later on now and there are flowers, leaves, buds and stems starting to appear. A dusting of snow just at this time can look as perfect as a sprinkling of sugar on a cake.
2. Through the looking glass
In the foul weather, there hasn’t been all that much opportunity to be outside in the little spare time I have had. Still plenty of pottering about to do indoors though. For some time I have been looking out for some old test tube racks or chemistry flasks for propagating cuttings in water. I came across this rather ingenious design which suspends little glass bowls in the air. Perfect for sitting high up on a window sill (so you don’t leave any water marks). Easy to move around and could also be used for single flowers or bunches of sweet peas later in the year.
Looking closely at the above image you can see make out an inverted reflection of the garden in each bowl. If I were to zoom in a bit closer and then invert the image it looks like the front garden has been magically caught inside a single rain drop.
3. Propagating succulents
Another quick job for a wet day was a spot of propagation of my small collection of succulents. Even with my totally inept fingers they are a fairly forgiving genus. In the space of fifteen minutes I had managed three different methods. I pulled away a few leaves of an echeveria. These will be left a few days to callus over and then will be popped into some gritty soil to root. The crassula were simply pulled apart gently and potted up. The third method was even easier; blithely chopping the tops of a small aeonium schwarzkopf should leave me with three new plants that can be potted up and hopefully some re-growth on the old cut stems. We will see!
4. Pulsatilla watch
Undeterred by the miserable weather I have not let down my guard on the pulsatilla flowers and am maintaining twenty four hour sentry duty for any peckish pheasants in the vicinity. I have seen a few prowling around the field and have made my displeasure known with a cold hard stare which seems to be working well so far.
5. If a job needs doing, buy a plant first
For a long time I have been meaning to move the compost bins from near the back of the house to somewhere a bit more hidden from view (not that a compost pile doesn’t have a certain aesthetic charm*). It will require me to dig over and then level a bit of ground and shift a few barrow loads of soil. In order to motivate myself I began by buying a lovely tree to go in the place of the compost bins. A multi-stem Katsura tree (cercidyphyllum japonicum) is something I have been thinking about for a while after seeing a beautiful one at Cambo estate. The children were delighted to hear that its leaves will smell of popcorn but less impressed that you can’t actually harvest popcorn from it.
6. First seedlings
There have been spells of sunshine and brief moments where it has felt like warmer days might not be too far away after all. The potatoes would traditionally go into the ground on St Patricks day which is tomorrow but it looks like the vegetable plot will still be pretty frozen then. Nevertheless the first seedlings of lettuce, beetroot and rocket are with us and eager to get growing. In a couple of weeks they will be ready for planting out.
And their new home will be ready and waiting for them….
* I think that compost bins are an under appreciated art form. They are not only utilitarian but also dynamic and there is something magical about watching compost appear from an ever changing array of ingredients as the seasons change. I think they should be celebrated rather than hidden away. Many have written at great length about the beauty of a well constructed woodpile such as Lars Mytting in the excellent book Norwegian Wood. Perhaps compost will one day earn a similar degree of appreciation.
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