It’s all too easy to spend every moment in the garden being ‘busy’. Particularly at this time of year, when there’s so much to be done, it’s difficult to put down the tools for a minute and appreciate what your hard work has created.
So this morning, I spent a few minutes with a cup of tea, perched on the wall, admiring the garden around me. We’ve only lived in our present home for 3 months so the garden is still somewhat of a stranger to me. Having grown up following my parents and grandparents around their own beautifully maintained patches, I developed an interest in horticulture. However once I’d flown the nest for University I spent a decade living in city apartments, with little more than a window box to occupy my green fingers.
This year my husband and I decided to relocate our family home from inner city Brighton to the suburbs of Hove. Granted we only moved a few miles, but the lush surroundings and birdsong of our new home seem a world away from the traffic and noise of our previous one. So finally I have a garden of my own, and with it, a duty to care for the land.
I feel a huge responsibility to create an environment in which our children and the local wildlife can thrive. Consequently I plan to tend it in an eco-friendly manner; working with nature and avoiding the use of chemicals and artificial fertilisers. In order to do this I first need to understand my new plot. So rather that rushing in with drastic changes, for this first year, I’m allowing the garden to reveal itself. When we initially moved in, the garden welcomed us with a mass of snowdrops and daffodils. These withered to make way for colourful tulips and poppies. Now the borders are filled with lily of the valley, wild garlic and the last few bluebells of the season.
Suddenly everything is springing to life. The fruit trees are filling out and flowers appearing on the roses, while the pond is overflowing with lilies and irises. As I sat, sipping my tea and taking it all in, my arm brushed past the bank of lavender developing around the patio. Releasing a waft of fragrance, it hinted that the garden has many more surprises in store for the coming months. I can’t wait to see what they are!
I love the arrival of daffodils in my garden. They signify the start of spring and their blanket of yellow is like a wash of sunshine after a dreary winter.
It saddens me when they begin to fade and I look forward to their return the following year. This season I vowed to pay special attention to my daffs, in the hope they would repay me with an even more impressive display next year. I diligently deadheaded them by pinching off the withered flowers and seed pods, which redirects energy back into the bulb rather than into seed production.
Then I left the leaves in place allowing photosynthesis to continue; charging the bulb with even more energy. However over the past few weeks, whilst wandering around my neighbourhood, I noticed many of the unruly leaves had been ‘tidied up’ into neat knots. Eventually only mine remained in a tangled mess and I begin to feel that I was letting down the area.
In a vain attempt at ‘keeping up with Joneses’ I promptly set about neatening my borders. I carefully separated the matted leaves; twisting and folding them into neat bunches. Then using some loose ends I secured the knots; rather like styling a pony tail. My clusters may not have been as well-ordered as the neighbours’ but still I was rather pleased with the result.
Feeling rather smug I went indoors to peruse the RHS website… only to discover they do not recommend this knotting of daffodils! Apparently it hinders their ability to function and as a result can cause ‘Daffodil Blindness’ – a condition where the foliage grows but the flowers fail to form. Instead it is advised that the leaves are left loose for around 6 weeks until they turn yellow; at which point they may be removed. My vanity had got the better of me and I have probably done more harm than good. However a lesson has been learned, and in future I will do my research first before ‘blindly’ copying others.
Our next guest blogger is Charlotte, telling us about her struggle with everyone’s favourite little yellow nuisance…
I’m ashamed to reveal that my lawn contains a higher proportion of moss and daisies than grass. However, I can live with this; in fact I find the happy faces of the little daisies smiling at me rather pleasing as I wander down the garden path.
It’s their dandelion companions that bother me. Despite my best efforts to eradicate the yellow menaces, every day when I open the curtains more have appeared overnight. Unable to tackle the problem alone I’ve enlisted the support of my sons with the invention of a new game – Operation Dandelion. With buckets in hand we each, on the count of 3, race around the garden, battling to pick the most yellow heads until the lawn is rid of them. We then count them out to determine the winner. Rather disconcertingly in the last game we each filled our buckets with over 100 flowers! And in spite of our determination the next day more had raised their heads as if to taunt us.
The key to obliterating this weed seems to lie in removal of the entire plant. It has a long deep tap root which can be difficult to extract in its entirety and often snaps unless it is first loosened. It’s crucial that the whole root is removed otherwise the plant may regenerate.
Dandelions are one of our most common and recognisable weeds, largely due to their incredible method of seed dispersal. What child can resist blowing the beautiful seed head or ‘dandelion clock’ and watching as the seeds float away in the breeze? Even I cannot fail to smile at my toddler’s joy upon finding a stray flower which has survived ‘operation dandelion’ long enough to go to seed. I join in his pleasure as he gently holds the stem and blows, dispersing the tiny seeds across the lawn. All the while I try not to imagine them settling between the blades of grass ready to produce next year’s carpet of yellow.
However irritating, I can nonetheless appreciate that to many, the dandelion is considered a delicious and versatile plant. My guinea pigs certainly seem to enjoy munching them and I myself am partial to a cup of dandelion tea to cleanse the system. In fact I think that rather than fretting about their spread I should instead relax with a cuppa and enjoy the many apparent health benefits dandelions can offer.