Clemmie Hambro’s gardening week
Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Clemmie Hambro’s gardening week: April 27

So, the preparation for the Great Sowing of the Meadow Seed went swimmingly. The huge area had been rotovated several times, and picked of stones. A great ton of sand had been mixed in, and huge handfuls of chicken manure pellets had been thrown liberally about. We were, for once, all ready.

And then it snowed – and we had to put everything on hold. Then it stopped snowing, and then we had a couple of very hard frosts. To cut a long story short, here I am, at the end of April, without the meadow seed having been sown.

It just shows what they say about the best-laid plans is correct. So the new bestlaid plan is that we wait another week to see if spring is going to sort itself out and decide if it is going to be warm or cold, or at least just warmish or frigidly frosty.

In the meantime, I have spent a good while staring at the sowing area, and it is amazing how, no matter how many I remove, more and more stones seem to appear on it. Just a week after my last attempt to prepare the ground and the soil looks like a quarry, again.

The other news is that all the plants for the front of the house are finally arriving on Tuesday. And so I went to inspect the naked borders that were all weeded and ready – or at least they were months ago. They don’t look so ready now. Weeds, sycamore seedlings, nettles, sticky willie, and much more, have taken up residence in the lovely, plump compost that was sitting waiting for the plants that never came.

But the rest of the garden is a scene of burgeoning growth. The greenhouse is laden with tiny seedlings that desperately need thinning – the sweet peas are getting leggy as I need to plant them out, but I have been nervous, what with snow storms. And amazingly, considering it is something that I have forgotten, I have managed to sow my own cosmos this year. Normally, I pick up the plants in the market, but last year I couldn’t get the ones I wanted and remained in a fury for the rest of the summer. This year, I didn’t take the risk and have sown my own.

Thick green blobs of emergent perennials look luscious and inviting – although not much is actually in flower yet. The faithful Clematis alpina has just sprung open her delicate, purple bells, and the whole of Exmoor is awash with thorn blossom and gorse flowers. But apart from that, the most fruitful thing in the garden is the air of anticipation.

The most useful thing to do is a touch of staking. Again, this is usually a task I remember when the plants are in bloom and have fallen over. I then struggle with a recalcitrant metal hoop or a horrid bamboo cane, usually ending up with the plant looking like a drunk precariously leaning against a lamp post.

This year, however, I am feeling unbelievably smug because I have made my own hazel rods that are going to look satisfyingly au naturel. Well, to say I made them is rather a stretch, but a few weeks ago, after a monster pruning session, I spent a blissful few hours with my secateurs, snipping off lengths of hazel branch and cutting them to size.

I am now so excited at the beauty of my hazel stakes and by the fact that I will only be using the bamboo canes for my runner beans in future, that I am going to stake some plants in advance of their collapse. I am actually going to be that sort of gardener. How cool is that?

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