Monty Don has always been a keen exponent of the health benefits of gardening, in particular its effect on the not so quiet mind. I have recently read that some hospitals have introduced ‘secret gardens’ where patients recovering from the Coronovirus are taken for periods every day, even in drizzling rain, for the beneficial effects. And, of course, this week it is Gardens and Health Week, sponsored by the NGS with Rachel de Thame as its Ambassador. The NGS website has various links to the personal stories of people for whom gardens have played a vital role in their recovery.
Also recently published is Sue Stuart-Smith’s (wife of the garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith) book, ‘The Well Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World’, in which she points out the pleasures of growing and nurturing things and argues for a ‘greening’ of all of our lives.
Despite exhortations to sit and enjoy our gardens, I think keen gardeners often don’t do that! But this spring there has been one thing that has brought me joy every time I look at it! In the autumn I bought a collection of ‘ tulips for a window box’. When it came to planting them, I decided the window box was too small, so I jammed them all into a pot. The three varieties are absolute beauties and even now they are fading are still immensely lovely.
I rarely sit outside, but I am greeted by them every morning when I have breakfast.
At the end of my garden I have a Clematis ‘Freckles’ which flowered constantly through the winter. However, I only saw this when I ventured further down the garden. I have resolved to plant something which gives me such pleasure closer to the house where I can see it even in inclement weather. In these unusual and difficult times, let us take pleasure where we can.
The tulips are Double Early and Double Lates: Anthracite, Copper Image and Dream Touch.
Do you ever plant things in your garden and forget that you have done so? I have clearly planted these tulips in a pot (last year? The year before?) and they have surprised me by coming up a treat.
That is probably part of the interest in planting bulbs. It is deferred gratification if ever there was an example. The anticipation of beauty to come. To some extent it is similar to sowing seeds, although here there is less of an excitement of immediate colour. Gardening is a thing of hope!
March and April are hugely busy in terms of seed sowing. At home I have a small patch given over to vegetables. It used to be bordered by trimmed box, but with the depredations of the box moth, all this has had to be removed. This year, I have decided to sow the annual Salvia Viridis to create the borders. It used to be grown so much, but seems to have become less popular and I haven’t seen it for years. I am hoping this will create an attractive foil for the tomatoes, salad greens, shallots and climbing beans that I plan to have here.
For my allotment I have my usual courgettes ( three varieties) tomatoes ( four varieties) runner and French beans, potatoes (earlies and maincrop) cucumber, beetroot, celeriac, cavalo nero and purple sprouting broccoli. I am going to add carrots, turnips and swedes. If the seed stocks in the garden centres on the weekend of 22 March are anything to go by, a large proportion of the population is anticipating a problem with food supply! I hope I have enough to feed the extended family.
My allotment soil is incredibly heavy and successive years of cultivation have done little to break it down. For those new to gardening, this could be very off-putting. Watching Monty Don or Joe Swift or Adam Frost plant vegetables in soil that is honed to a fine tilth you could blow on it and create a hole and then be confronted by the average plot, is something that might make you quail. In the week before lockdown ( are we all thinking in terms of ‘before lockdown’ and ‘after lockdown’ now?) I had two guys dig over the plot, but this still leaves large clods of soil which need to be broken up. I am now in the backbreaking process of doing this. Only then can I direct- sow into the soil, or plant things like French beans.
Elizabeth says “Last Autumn I had a beautiful collection of Sara Raven tulip bulbs for my birthday, which were carefully arranged in colour co-ordinated flow with wallflowers interspersed. Feeling generous to myself, similar colour groupings were arranged around my garden and I eagerly awaited this Spring.
Bulbs started to appear prolifically and my excitement rose; each day my first task was to check their progress with all the promise that entailed. Until – one morning, disastrous views unfolded – all the fully developed buds had been bitten off by The Squirrel! Only immature ones remain.
Apart from purchasing a shotgun on eBay, does anyone have any helpful advice to avoid repetition?”
Such a sad story! Please email your suggestions to email@example.com and let us know if you have had a similar problem? I have personally had plenty of problems with squirrels and bulbs, but once the bulbs start growing, my local squirrels (thankfully) lose interest. Christine has had success with putting curry powder in the soil, and Jenny puts prickly holly twigs around her pots, but this is really for the bulb stage. Other ideas needed!