So during the barren winter months one has to find other distractions to amuse oneself, such as eating and talking. At a recent lunch party (ooh, get her!) I found myself sitting with a retired geography teacher discussing the advantages and disadvantages of London clay in horticulture. (Cor, mixing in the social circles of North London takes a lot of beating!) Well you could have knocked me down with a feather! Did you know that the Pleistocene ice-sheets really did stop at Henly’s Corner* (which is the junction of the Finchley and North Circular Roads). I don’t know how I lived without that knowledge until now.
Spurred on by this revelation I decided it was high time to get back out there amongst said clay and welcome in the new gardening year. As always I venture out with an open mind, and in my thirst for knowledge I discovered two new techniques:
- It’s always better to hard prune when in a bad mood. After a particularly grim morning I decided to vent my spleen on the poor unsuspecting roses. What I ended up with were neat little 12” goblet shaped bushes, instead of the usual leggy specimens resulting from hedging my bets. Moving onto the deciduous shrubs, I faced down overgrown sambucus nigra and cotinus coggygria, rubbing alongside one another like reluctant bedfellows. Secateurs in hand, I pronounced, “You grow, you go,” before hard pruning the cotinus in favour of the sambucus. It’ll be the survival of the fittest. As the saying goes, “There’s no sentiment in business – or pruning”.
- Always hard prune ivy in the pouring rain. I dread this task because the dust from dried ivy invariably chokes the life out of me. However by happy accident I discovered that, whilst pruning in the rain may result in pneumonia, it does prevent asphyxiation.
Talking of gardening techniques, for those of you who are yoga junkies like wot I am, here are a few adaptations to poses that may come in handy whilst working in your garden:
- Yogi squat or Crow pose. Particularly useful for straining your Achilles tendon whilst pruning ground cover that has spread into the lawn edges.
- Warrior One. Stand upright, legs apart, neck at 90 degree angle to shoulders, arms stretched right out of sockets overhead, long loppers in hand, whilst attempting to chop off errant whips on ancient apple tree. Repeat several times then give up and assume Balasana or Childs Pose.
- Warrior Three. Great pose for pitching forward to grapple with tenacious clematis adhered to fence, whilst balancing on one leg in order to avoid trampling all over emerging bulbs and perennials in herbaceous border.
- Corpse Pose. At the end of every Practice it is customary to rest in Shevasana. Lie down on back and surrender yourself to Nature, finally acknowledging that She knows best and that you will try to work with her at every future opportunity.
Seriously though, after a couple of invigorating spring cleaning sessions in the brisk winter sunshine I am delighted to report that I have got my enthusiasm back. The garden has been tamed into submission; at least, I don’t cringe whenever I step outside now. (Look straight ahead, avoid eye contact with patio cannas, last year’s foliage hanging on like tattered rags.)
Day length is noticeably longer. Iris reticulata, winter aconites, crocus and snowdrops are blooming. Hellebores are in flower. Buds are swelling everywhere. Don’t you just love the tight, bright new shoots clustering in profusion on previously barren stems? Only trouble now is holding myself back from pruning less robust shrubs like fuchsia, abelia & hydrangea.
Looking forward, my T & M trial seeds have arrived! I’m being more realistic this year, trying to stick to plants I know I can grow – not into pushing the boundaries, too much like hard work – and at least I shall have something to report!
- Tomato Artisan Mixed. Having said that, I tried these last year but they didn’t germinate. Love the colours.
- Tomato Sweet Baby. Website description: Fabulous and Prolific. That’ll do for me.
- Tomato Rainbow Blend. Missed the boat on these last year as they were out of stock.
- Cucumber Nimrod F1. Never grown cucumbers from seed but intrigued by their All-Female scab resistance!
- Ricinus Communis Impala. Fab-u-lous accent plants. Majestic appearance makes them look difficult to grow (therefore feather in my cap). Easy peasy!
- Mina Lobata. Seeing as everyone always boasts about how easy these are to grow I thought I’d have a go. Previous miserable attempts to be ignored – hope over experience.
- Nasturtium ‘Orchid Flame’. Out of stock. Makes you want them even more.
Incidentally the Green Bin Men still haven’t been; that’s 7 weeks and counting. I put ours out last night (the bin, not the men…although.….) in eager anticipation, neighbours following suit shortly afterwards on the assumption that my being The Gardener on our road, I must be In “The Know”. No show. Am not even sure that the Bin Men know when they should return.
I leave you now with a caution: Refrain from thinking spring is on its way as it usually snows on Feb 20th.
*HENLY’S CORNER – IN THE ICE AGE By Helen O’Brien
What has become almost a local folk legend was confirmed recently (Blogger’s Note: 1979 actually. Still, extremely recent in the grand scheme of things) by the Geological Museum, in answer to a query prompted by current road improvement proposals. But the Finchley glacier did not, as popularly believed, come from the last glaciation but from a much earlier one, approximately a quarter of a million years ago – known, in English terminology, as the Anglian advance; or as the Mindel glaciation in the European Alpine sequence.
Caroline Broome has been gardening for more than 20 years. Having passed the RHS General Certificate, she has since developed her East Finchley garden into a “personal paradise” that she and her husband invite the public to visit each year via the National Garden Scheme. Learn more about our contributor using T&M’s ‘Meet the experts’ page.