Monday, 6 May 2013

Flower power

Purple haze
For most, if not all of my youth I wondered what the hell my mother was doing in the garden. My father was generally there with her when the work was done down the fields or in the yard, so there was a pair of them in it. I just didn't get the fact that they loved being out there until dark would creep in past ten and eleven at night during the summer or why would you bother chitting seed potatoes under our beds in the depths of a February winter. Thing is - I get it now. And now I wonder is it that I've gotten old or is it that I just get it? Is it like when you suddenly realise that money doesn't grow in your parents' pockets? When I visit my parents now I realise how much work went into having all those crocuses and snowdrops in January, daffodils a'plenty in March, torrents of tulips in April and then all those amazing scents and colours of summer months - roses, sweet william, sweet pea, dahlias and in more recent years glorious sunflowers. All against a backdrop of beautiful beech, graceful pines and an orchard of apple and plenty of growing room for all sorts of berries. 

Momma tulip with baby tulips
I realise now how much work it takes because we started on our own journey here in the Holly Cottage nearly three years ago. The first summer went quickly and we did nothing much, cut a few overgrown trees and built a wall. The second we focused on growing food for ourselves - one must have their priorities right ;) And then last year we finally got around to dealing with the disastrous front of the house which we had completely neglected and turned our back on (literally we did, as the back is facing south and out of sight...). Over the course of a wet July and August in 2012 we cleared out the chaos and replaced it with clean lines and in our wisdom (somehow we knew we had to) we planted about 200 bulbs on a hot August afternoon and duly forgot about them until the first sacred snowdrop lifted its head in a wet January. Since then we've been constantly entertained by trying to guess what would come next, since we really can't remember. And so we had irises, crocuses, daffodils, tulips, snowflake (bigger and later version of the snowdrop) as well as things we didn't even plant that somehow found their way. The wilder things that popped up are celendine, wild strawberry, bluebell, wild garlic and lords and ladies. At the moment down on fruit alley we have the cherry, apple and pear blossoms and not to forget the pale purple of the cheery chives. Of course then we had our surprise roses last year and I've managed to salvage them and find a better spot - fingers crossed they'll come back to us. 

Simple pleasure
And so, inspired by the delight of all those bulbs I was early down to the local Lidl store Saturday  bank holiday morning (German supermarket chain in Ireland) and picked up a load of specials. I thought I'd be the only one but there was a river of plant shoppers streaming out the door after buying up nearly everything in the few minutes the store had been opened. I came home with a boot load of 'infant' flowers. All of which are now - after three hours that seemed to disappear in 5 minutes of planting and watering - in the ground (note - there is loads of potential for practicing your yoga while gardening - think squats, forward bends and mountain pose). There is lavender, clematis (climber for the big wall at the back), blue lilac, marigolds, geraniums and my mother's all time favourite - pansies. Again, I only know anything about these flowers because of her, and I probably wouldn't know anything about growing and caring for them but for her either. I guess I owe a lot of gratitude to her - not least for bringing me into being which goes without saying - but for all the stuff as a child and sulky teenager I thought I'd never need to know, that now brings us the greatest of simple pleasures everyday in our Holly Cottage garden. Thanks Ma! I did return some of the favour though and when I started my own botanical trekking I was able to show her sundews and other insect eating plants on the bogs of Ireland, the colourful bog mosses and the glorious orchids that are miniature paintings against the wild bog backdrop. 

My advice - only if you're interested - is start small. Start with a few small things in a corner of the garden and be sure they are where you can see and admire them everyday. Then, maybe plant a few more of what you decide you like best. After that, experiment and try planting a few things like  potted herbs that you can pick up with your weekly shop. It can be as simple as you have the time and the money for, and don't forget you can always adopt and adapt a few cuttings from more established gardens. You learn something new with every seed you sow or plant you dig - more often learning something about yourself that you might never have otherwise known. 

And so, here's to flower power! If you do a Google search for flower power - you'll just get pictures of hippies and 60s psychedelia. It is so much more than that, trust me. So enjoy the cherry blossoms on the streets and the gorse on the hills, and I will keep you posted as to how our new arrivals fare and the flower power that they bring. May the force be with you ;)

A quick postscript on a Monday afternoon - I managed to scavenge enough rhubarb from the garden to make our first rhubarb tart of the year. Three words - DE-LISH-IOUS. And the spuds are up - was there ever any doubt? 

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