Thursday, 25 April 2013

the joys of spring

It was another beautiful day.  I've seen the forecast on the TV and the Met Office website, and know that a front is advancing from the north and that the warm weather won't last, but I'm enjoying it while it does.  At the start of the week, or rather on Tuesday morning, I could scarcely believe that I had the rest of the week to get on with things at home.  Surely something would happen.  A cat would appear with an injury requiring a trip to the vet, or I would poke myself in the eye and spend the rest of the day at the walk-in centre, or my car would develop some bizarre fault requiring it to be taken to the garage and collected again.  But all was well.  It is early Thursday evening and so far nothing has gone wrong at all.

My left knee did take exception to crawling around on a mixture of earth, mushroom compost, fish blood and bone, Strulch, and Euphorbia cyparissus while wearing jeans with a hole in, and turned an ominous shade of dark pink.  I considered a diagnosis of cellulitis or housemaid's knee, but instead opted for scrubbing it with a face flannel and seeing if it calmed down again.  I have ordered a pair of cheap jeans from Tesco, and will see how long they last.  It may be that I have to look on gardening trousers as disposable items, akin to gardening gloves.  They have not yet arrived at my chosen click-and-collect store, so in deference to my knee I sacrificed a pair of early 90s vintage chinos, which only ever buttoned up when I was at my thinnest.  That doesn't happen so often nowadays, and with the button left undone and a belt they will do for gardening.

In the back garden the buds of the 'Tai Haku' are starting to open.  Yesterday morning they were still shut.  By yesterday afternoon the tree was showing white, and this afternoon whiter still, but still not fully out.  This is the great white cherry, thought lost to cultivation in its native Japan, and saved by the discovery of one poorly-looking tree in an English garden by the early twentieth century cherry enthusiast Collingwood 'Cherry' Ingram.  It holds its branches out almost horizontally, in classic Japanese cherry pose.  The flowers only last a matter of days, but they are glorious.  The young leaves are a pleasant shade of bronze, and the autumn colour is good.  It will get large with time, which is fine by us.  It sits on one corner of the top lawn, forming a fulcrum around which other parts of the garden swirl.  Japanese cherries are still vaguely out of fashion, but I like 'Tai Haku'.  I am not interested in being fashionable, and a good habit, decent leaves and spectacular display of blossom, plus a romantic history, are enough for me.  The Systems Administrator is fond of 'Tai Haku' partly because the SA's late father grew it in their first garden in Berkhamsted, when the SA was very small.

The egg situation is unclear.  Yesterday the SA heard hammering from the chicken house, but by the time the SA investigated the hens had broken an egg on the floor of the main house, and were eating it.  But today we collected five eggs.

In the gravel garden my two plants of Zauschneria have both made it through the long, cold winter, and last year's endless rain, and are suckering nicely.  I think this is testament to the extremely sharp drainage in the front garden.  It comes originally from the dry slopes and chaparral of North America, and carries red flowers at the orange end of the spectrum, in late summer.  It does very badly in pots, and tends to look pretty rough, which is probably one reason why you don't see if for sale very often.  I got one of my plants at work, and the other at the Chatto gardens.  The top growth is killed by the winter, at least in north Essex, but the plant shoots again from below ground level, so you simply cut the dead twigs off in the spring, and presently get a whole new set of grey-leaved twigs to admire.

Berkheya purpurea from South Africa has a similar trick.  Every bit of the plant above ground level is stone-dead and dessicated by the end of winter, but about now new felted grey leaves start appearing from below ground.  I missed a trick when I failed to provide more shelter from cold winds in the top part of the garden, otherwise with drainage like this we ought to be able to grow all sorts of things.

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