Slow down, young lad.
Take time to find the gaudy foil wrapped
Eggs and rabbits hidden by
Those mossy greens.
Slow down, young lass.
Paint shells and papers,
Gaudy bright, but leave the
Brows and nails their rustic hues.
Slow down, young lovers.
Two lives ahead to share those burning passions.
Save the kindling, keep some dry
For when the winds fall still.
Slow down, you always weary parents.
There will come a day
When pressures ease – no final lap,
But different clocks start ticking then.
Slow down, now working weeks are done.
And hours once scarce,
Are never, ever free from
Things to do and learn.
Slow down, old man,
And watch the clouds.
And finally you’ll see that nothing’s
As it seems. Time lapses,
Shifts, transforms the scene.
With an upgrade to a newer computer, and also investing in some software to convert my camcorder’s AVCHD video clips, (which WordPress won’t accept), to an internet friendly format, you will see that I can at last upload a few snippets of video more easily. Never fear though, our miniscule data allowance means I shall have to exercise considerable restraint in this area!
With Fiona out of gardening action over the last 6 weeks, I’ve been grateful for the very slow start to spring, which has meant that weed germination is only now beginning to accelerate. I mused the other day about when it was that I last read an article on hand weeding in any of the glossy gardening magazines which arrive, often on the same day, each month. I honestly couldn’t remember ever reading anything, though I’m sure I’m mistaken.
Given we now have occasional help in the garden I figured this would be a useful task for William, but then realised that it’s perhaps one of the most “skilled” jobs which I do. Not only do you have to recognise and avoid any fragile shoots of perennials which are beginning to push through (which really means me wearing Crocs or such like), but also one needs to recognise the weed seedlings as early as possible, preferably from their first two (for dicotyledons) or even one (for monocotyledon plants) leaves, and then what the completely different later true leaves of the weed, or cherished plant, look like.
Next comes the issue of whether the weed can be pulled by finger, leaving minimal soil disturbance which in turn would expose a new population of seed bank weed seeds to germinate, or whether some sort of implement is needed to try to get all the roots out – there just is no point in pulling off top growth with many weeds like Creeping buttercup, Ranunculus repens, Cleavers, Galium aparine, or Hedge woundwort,
Stachys sylvatica, (below), without removing the growing stem and roots.
In addition, in our garden where in many areas we encourage self-seeding, sometimes even of vigorous natives like Germander speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys, or vigorous taller thugs, like Foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea, or Pyrenean valerian, Valeriana pyrenaica, a decision needs to be made as one works over an area about the sort of density of these plants one wants to allow – too many and very little of a less vigorous plant, will ever survive.
For the many gardeners who spread annual layers of mulch to suppress weed germination, hand weeding is probably never as intensive or regular as we tend to make it – we have to make a repeat trawl of all parts of the garden about every 4 weeks, this interval being dictated by the time taken for Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta, the fastest of our weeds at procreation, to flower and disperse seed.
However, for everyone who questions the labour intensity of our way of gardening, in mitigation I would argue that over many years, the more stable and established areas of the garden now require very few weeds removed over a year – once the ground cover planting is well established. It’s just the newest areas of the garden which still need more regular time and effort. So whilst every square metre of the garden has to be carefully scanned several times through the growing season, the mass of weeds removed, and hence time involved, diminishes all the time.
The final huge benefit of this type of gardening, with an ability to remove, or leave, plants at a very early stage, is that you do indeed get a huge amount of self-seeding of plants which you’ve chosen in your planting mix, be they bulbs or perennials. I now reckon that our aim here is principally to grow other countries’ weeds, which like our particular mix of climatic and soil conditions, alongside a select few of our own. The ability of a plant to drop seeds to infill gaps from fatalities, with no real work from the gardener, is a huge asset for more relaxed, “naturalistic” style gardening. The creation of an evolving, morphing and entirely unnatural (given their indigenous ranges), combination of plants which gel biologically and aesthetically, becomes the Holy Grail, to ease work as one’s body starts to creak a little more.
Regular deep mulching will inevitably reduce this natural infilling, and also requires regular top ups. Many naturally dropped seeds will be buried too deep beneath the mulch to ever germinate. The other key element for success with this natural self-sowing is one has to have a low tolerance for slugs. Many, even most, plants will survive slight slug damage once permanent shoots and root systems are established, but waves of seedlings can disappear, often overnight, at this time of the year. This lesson has been leaned by me very, very slowly here in our wet climate. But finally, again aided by the very harsh late winter and much better managed slug control last year, this approach is allowing large numbers of tender seedlings a chance to get away this spring.
I was discussing hand weeding with Richard Bramley from Farmyard Nurseries yesterday, (click here for more on Farmyard who are off to Cardiff Flower Show next week, hunting a gold medal), and he agreed with me that an ability to hand weed and recognise what plant a seedling will develop into, is a vital gardening skill – he’s found several new varieties on his nursery this way, perhaps spotting a tiny seedling in a gravel path. But he reckoned that this is a very difficult subject to teach to a third party.
What do readers think? Are they hand weeding fans? Or do they tend to hoe, or mulch? And which of the above plants did I leave, and which remove?
As I began writing this on April 8th 2018, we still had the last few snowdrops in flower in the garden, so this year they’ve given 6 months of interest, from G. reginae olgae opening on October 8th last year, to the marvellous G. “Polar Bear” (below) in early April.
I thought I’d record, as in previous years, a big thank you to everyone who’s helped me with my Welsh Historic Snowdrop Hunt over the last season, including Keith (for his amazing hybrid snowdrop), Jen, Paul, Rae, Richard, Jenny, Roddy, Viv, John, Margaret, Joanne, and anyone else I’ve forgotten! The number of Welsh origin forms in the garden probably now exceeds 50, with those from earlier years beginning to settle in nicely.
This year’s efforts have been reduced partly because of the weather, but also because in early February we crossed the border and had 5 days away in the Cotswolds, looking at some of the famous snowdrop gardens, and historic houses in that part of the UK. A few photos below to illustrate these trips. Weather was mixed, but at least we avoided the later snowfalls, and most of the gardens we visited were really quiet! A wonderful treat.
Next year we hope to travel a little further afield in Wales, and anyone wanting to get in touch about possible sites to visit will always be most welcome.
A couple of times before in my posts I’ve written about the latest exhibition at the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter. This year’s exhibition, which opened last month, is perhaps the best of the 10 that have been held there over the last decade. I would urge anyone who can visit, to do so. This is a unique opportunity to see the amazing skill and artistry of historical Welsh quilting, and probably the last chance for anyone in the UK to see such an exhibition, since very sadly this will be the final exhibition before Jen Jones, who is the driving force behind the Centre, and indeed owns all the Welsh quilts on display, will be closing the Centre at the end of this show.
So do plan a visit now. Click here for the link to the Centre and its opening hours.“Nos Da, Goodnight” is therefore, a very apt title. As well as all the fabulous quilts, there is a subsidiary exhibition of vintage, detailed embroidery samplers – an insight into how young children and ladies spent their time in an era before electronic gizmos took over.___
A lovely sunrise on Easter Saturday was bettered the next morning, when, without the occasional distant roar of high jet engines no doubt depositing transatlantic visitors into London, our still, quiet valley was filled at dawn with song, as patient birds finally had some spring weather to celebrate.
Get real, man. Life’s too slow.
Genie’s out. Swipes ‘n taps.
Don’t need your peace,
Life’s all action. Buzz ‘n bling.
Reality. Just virtually. Right?