Gardening in strange times
The garden has always been a place where one can forget everything except the job at hand. Plants are living things and as such absorb me totally in their care. My dear Uncle John a bachelor who lived a solitary life in the main, would often proclaim “ It’s hard to be depressed in the garden”. He was a great man for planting fruit and vegetables and had rhubarb, currant bushes, raspberry canes , potatoes and peas all fed by manure from the neighbouring cattle mart in Ashbourne. I have an image of him in my mind wheeling his wheelbarrow across a narrow plank over the ditch to collect the manure for his garden. He would put some in a barrel of water and let it stew for a few days and then upend the lot over his rhubarb. He trimmed hedges and cut his lawn with an old fashioned push mower. He lived with his sister until she went to work in London and he would tend her roses and plant wallflowers for her in perfect circular beds he made in the front lawn. He had plum and apple trees which in his words were “hanking with fruit”. I remember loving the Victoria plums and trying to climb to the very top where of course the best ones were. He would patiently and silently go to the shed and get his ladder, gently telling me not to fall while he himself would balance the ladder precariously against a branch and climb to the top to rescue the ripest, sweetest plum. When I planted Victoria plums here I made sure to plant them on dwarf root stock so I never missed any. I think of my Uncle John a lot in these days of self isolation and try to channel his patience and stoicism .
While we’re lucky to have a large garden even the smallest of patches can bring us joy and more important peace. Weeding is surprisingly satisfying and even an hour or so a day gives a great result. The garden is unaware of the pandemic, it soldiers on giving of its bounty and we as gardeners reap what we sow in the very literal sense. Work we did last autumn is rewarding us now as precious bulbs push up and light up the garden with colour.
Now as we tidy up the dead foliage of our perennials we are heartened by the signs of life and new shoots hiding underneath. We’ve hopefully by now pruned our roses and the new growth is a vibrant red reaching for the sky and nurturing the glorious blooms we will enjoy in just a few short weeks.
Shrubs which flower on their bare branches are coming into bud with cherry and apple blossom about to warm our hearts. Pieris are putting on a show with clusters of flowers giving way to fiery red new growth. Hyacinths are filling the garden with their heady scent. Tulips are opening day by day each colour competing to be the most glorious.
Acers are putting on their new leaves in various shades of reds and greens and as I gaze out the window I see the bright blues of forget me not forming a carpet underneath the snowy stems of the silver birch. Everything in the garden has its time to shine and it is continuing its journey and is a stabilizing force in these difficult times. The birds are nest building, the crows raucous as they complain when I garden underneath. As always there is a curious robin nearby as I turn over the earth and the blue tits, blackbirds and goldfinches dart to and from the birdfeeders , tiny flashes of colour making me smile.
Everywhere there is life from the earthworms, to the welcome sound of solitary bees and newts and frogs spawn in the pond. The distant drone of tractors remind me that farmers are continuing their valuable work, tending to the land, taking care of animals, planting crops and it’s a comforting sound from behind our house.
I’ve always appreciated the garden and now it is my solace. I hope you enjoy a few photos from April in the garden and some of my dear Uncle John, a wise man indeed.