There are clear, cool days in February when everything seems right. The sun shines, January’s darkness is gone – light begins to stretch beyond working hours (if you happen to knock off, like I do, at 5:30)
And the garden’s at its freshest.
Russian snowdrops have been out for some time now, not just in the sunshine but also braving January’s gales.
The year’s first tidy-up in the garden is the best!
Spring is a long slog full of setbacks and broken promises. But I have to admit, it has its moments.
I probably love trees far too much. And this is what happens.
Back in the spring of 2007 we decided to liven up a rather boring (as in, privet hedge, lawn, nothing else) back garden with some fruit trees. So after a spot of research – what size? What type? Are there local varieties that do well in sunny, frosty Yorkshire..? – we chose two pear trees (Conference and Buerre Hardy) and the cherry tree (Stella). These were joined, two years later, by a plum – a present from my workmates in Leeds when I resigned the job there. Tsar – of course!
Round about that time, the cherry produced its first fruit.
To my shame I have no pictures of it in blossom, so here’s a neighbouring tree I spotted more recently when photographing some consequences of this year’s amazing dry, quiet spring.
Our tree grew rapidly, outpacing our ability to harvest anything from it – the birds always grabbed the lot first. Until this year.
Was this brought on by 2020’s uncanny, clear spring? Or simple maturity? Or, strange to wonder, the tree sensing its days were numbered – because we were beginning to talk about it as a problem?
Harvest (well, a tiny part of it)
This year we picked more than 500 cherries, each magnificent. As every year, I keep the stones (along with the dozens I find on the lawn where the birds have dropped them!), scattering them, throughout the autumn, in any place I think could do with a tree.
At this point we were still just thinking the tree could do with a drastic prune. We’d done this before – about three years ago – but that only made it grow faster! By the time I took this shot, it had grown taller than our garden is wide. The two little pear-trees on their modest rootstock were really struggling.
So. A tree-surgeon came and did the deed.
The red hue of the wood is painful to see. As if I’d murdered someone.
I shall miss our tree. This time of year, I miss the shapes I could see in its branches – and the shadows they made on the kitchen wall when I turned the lights out last thing.
But its giant roots had stalked under the lawn and reached the house, putting up new trees along their lines as they did so.
Our cherry tree was a victim of its own success.
It hasn’t gone – its roots are still alive. The new trees that grow from them, I know from having severed roots before, won’t die as a result of being cut off from their giant Source.
A quick count finds that we’ve now come to the end of those forty days. How did St Swithin’s prediction do? Well, on 15th July it rained for some of the day – and for the last forty days it has, indeed, rained on some of the days! A prediction like that can’t go wrong, really, can it?
But to the point.
Rain on St Swithin’s day is supposed to ‘christen the apples’ – though my bet is this particular piece of lore pre-dates Christianity by quite some time.
They don’t seem to have done too badly.
Neither do these:
Our pears don’t seem to want to be out-done, either. This is the same pear-tree which, all those years ago during ‘The Year-Long Lunch Break’ – my first ever blog – was the beneficiary of ‘the Sporting Chance School of Gardening‘, also known as my tendency not to bother digging up a plant and chucking it on the off-chance that it might come good. That was over ten years ago. This is now:
The tomato plants, from Lockdown times, are giving us our first toms ever. I think the secret is to have them near enough to the back door that you can water them in your slippers, and pick them as soon as they are ripe!
Finally here are some pretty calendulas. Just because.