The answer lies in the soil…

… as dear old Arthur Fallowfield used to say before moving on to some appalling innuendo or double-entendre.  Where are the characters on today’s Any Questions? who could be parodied to such comic effect.

After the drought afflicting my garden was finally recognised by the relevant official body (DEFRA?), more normal levels of rainfall have magically been restored.  It is often said that you should never believe anything until it has been officially denied – but I think the converse may also be true, that as soon as something is admitted by officialdom it ceases to be so (if, indeed, it ever was).  Perhaps a trawl of government archives will find the state owning to the presence of the unicorn and the sidhe living among us, thus explaining their absence from the modern world.

The combination of returning precipitation and intermittently warm temperatures has led to a surge in growth for many of the plants in my garden (both those I want, and the many unwanted walnut trees planted by my friendly neighbourhood squirrels).  Sadly, a number of plants did not make it through the snowy winter and following drought – and so a moment’s silence please for the pittosporum, the echinacea and the last of the lavendula stoechas.  It seems particularly galling that the echinacea, so long touted as a cure for the cold, was unable to survive a few weeks of the cold itself.  On the other hand, the pittosporum, it must be said, is not entirely gone despite its unfortunate death – its corpse was cut up and is now acting as support for my 2011 pea crop (and very fine pea sticks it made too).

It sometimes strikes me as curious that were I reporting these facts about an animal I’d be in serious trouble, but with a plant there is no vegetative equivalent of the RSPCA to rescue our chlorophylled friends from my depraved clutches.  Nor (yet) are hours of daytime television devoted to those that rescue and/or heal the mis-treated or merely unwell members of the plant kingdom – but I will be pitching Vegetable Hospital to TV execs very soon where the poorly petunia or spavined sprout will be the star (I’m also thinking that both Location, Location, Location and A Place in the Sun could be transplanted to the world of vegetation without the need for a title change – though a little sprinkle of blood, fish and bonemeal might be good idea).

The loss of old favourites allows new players to enter the garden stage to strut their stuff (while I fret away the hours).  The general trend has been to introduce things I can eat to the garden over time (as my mind rarely strays far from the next meal).  I started with herbs (though I struggle to keep basil alive, perhaps I should shout at it?  It seemed to work for Sybil), but now aim to produce a range of vegetables and fruits – assuming I can keep the molluscs, wood pigeons, blackbirds and cats at bay.  This year I have gooseberries and white currants to harvest in the very near future, and it looks like a beyond-bumper (chassis?) year for my grape vine.  It would seem that my attempts to control it, only seem to have encouraged it to grow with even greater vigour – I fear the first bottles of Chateau Sawston may be closer than we think, it’s either that or I risk expiring of a grape overdose come the autumn.

Our government seems very keen on making cuts, so I have decided that pruning will be my contribution to the effort.  I fear I have much to learn about this particular arcane art – if only it related to dried plums (as the name suggests), it would be a doddle given my fondness for that particular sweetmeat.  However, it is a talent that must be mastered if my secateurs and I are to keep the soft fruit producing – and soon we will have a new responsibility: to continue the training of my latest charge – an espaliered apple tree (which will be coming soon to the grounds here at Fish Towers).  Initially, I shall try and train it to produce apples and to continue to grow in a piece-wise linear fashion  – but if that goes well, I might try and train it for a wider range of skills.  But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…

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