Wednesday, 17 January 2018

vicarious gardening

I cried off going to the AGM of my ladies' group today, on the grounds that I felt grotty enough not to want to go anywhere unless I had to, and there was no point in spreading my germs around a packed room with about thirty other people.  The friend I should have gone with said never mind, there was always next year's AGM, and the main thing was to keep warm, rest, and get better.  By way of consoling me she pointed out how the snowdrops were coming through, the primroses would be next and then the daffodils, and spring was on its way.  I knew she meant kindly and I wasn't going to argue with her, but I was already acutely aware of how time was marching on when there was still had so much to do in the garden.  If I could just shake off my cold and then the snowdrops could stay exactly as they were for another couple of weeks while I caught up with myself that would have been better.

In the meantime I have all the books I was given for Christmas, including one on New York's High Line.  I have never seen the High Line in real life, but there have been plenty of articles about it in the British press and I love the idea, a mile and a half long linear park planted with wildlife friendly species, free to use every day (snowfall permitting), making use of an existing city structure, a disused railway, not blocking any historic views.  Quite unlike London's proposed garden bridge, which I was never at all keen on.

The book has very nice photos, just the thing somebody for stuck indoors with a runny nose and a headache on a cold and windy day.  The planting was designed to evoke the atmosphere of the self-sown wild planting that grew up in the years when the railway was abandoned.  I imagined that growing conditions must have been pretty fierce up there, with no original soil, exposed to the blast of the wind off the Hudson river, and began to look hopefully for plants that might cope in our meagre soil and low rainfall.  I could just see some of those woodland edge asters and geums along the edge of our wood.  The authors did admit that at the start of the project the line had been cleared to clean it up ready for human visitors, stripping off lead paint and so on, and I began to wonder what depth of soil they had introduced before replanting, and whether it was irrigated once it was a park.

It's just as well I checked.  The soil is not very deep, and must freeze pretty much solid in a New York winter, so anything pictured in the book should be able to withstand an Essex winter, but they did instal drip irrigation.  I realised I didn't know how much it rained in New York.  Oh, the beauty of the internet.  You can look these things up, when past generations could have spent hours arguing about it without ever coming to any definite answer.  New York has over 46 inches of precipitation annually, falling on average one day in three.  That is over twice as much as we get here, so even the pre-park weeds making do on whatever dust and leaffall they could find were off to a flying start compared to life in my garden, and it is no wonder that the High Line's Gillenia trifoliata develops lovely red foliage in the autumn, when mine just goes brown and dries up.

Moral: always check your sources.  I cannot nick ideas straight from the High Line any more than I can from Great Dixter.  I do rather fancy the sound of Aster oblongifolius and Geum triflorum, though.  It looks as though both are available as seed.

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