Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Waters of Life

Just as boilers have a habit of giving up the ghost on the first cold weekend of autumn, so the irrigation system chose mid-June, The Most Critical Point of The Gardening Calendar, to deprive us of water. Hundreds of newly planted flowers, vegetables and herbs cowered under the hard bright blue dome of sky and unrelenting sun.
The only sensible thing to do is to wait till the cool of evening and get out there with hoses and cans. It’s a real discipline, getting the right amount of water to the plants at the right time. No good wetting the leaves at midday with a high pressure hose. A minute’s gentle trickle of water at the roots in the evening is worth half an hour’s sprinkling in the sunshine.
And it’s a great way to get to know the garden. Normally you’re so busy “doing”, there is no time, as W. H. Davies said, to stand and stare. Great ideas come from peaceful rumination and gentle care.
Sometimes though, it’s difficult to keep looking at the plants. The sun sets and the mountains sink one by one into inky shadows, jet trails catch the last coppery rays of light; - then fireflies come out and remind you - you’ve not had dinner yet.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad day light,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
rom Songs Of Joy and Others (1911)   

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Weeding and Seeding

A few weeks ago I gaily sowed my Agastache (hummingbird mints), red plantains and Stipa tenuissima (which the French rather poetically call cheveux d’ange - Angel’s Hair. In English it’s the rather terse Feather Grass) etc;  watered well, stood back, and waited.  

I then watched aghast as an increasingly dementedly vigorous field of fat hen and wild oats sprang up instead.
Everything I’ve put in as a growing plant has taken - even the tiny transplants of sea hollies (which insist on flowering despite my best efforts to discourage them). But the direct seeding plan has been what politicians would call ‘a learning curve’.  One definite lesson has been the difference between gardening here and the city gardens I’ve become accustomed to over the past few years - the phenomenal seed bank that can build up in rural gardens.
All I can do is groan, wait for a sunny, windy day and reach for the hoe, and admit defeat in my direct seeding experiment.  Hoeing away on a warm day with stupendous views isn’t all bad. I’m going to re-sow my chosen plants in modules in the shelter of the cold frames and hope to plant out in the autumn once it cools down and the rains return.