Thrifty Shades of Green

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Welcome one and all to the dubious titled Lady Garden. Let your green fingers take a wander through our overgrown bushes to enjoy the fruitful delights that are found within. Perhaps we shall just leave you with that thought and introduce you to the Emporium’s very own Percy Thrower, Lady Emma David

Hi folks, and welcome! I’m delighted to tell you it’s almost That Time again –  you know, that special time we all yearn for from the very depths of our existential core… No, not “Cake Time” – who are you, yes you on the red sofa there – Marie Antoinette? Hrrumph! No, c’mon, work with me here – think green… (although I suppose that could apply the Dauphine’s suggestion if one were to overindulge – but no, you’re distracting me, stoppit!!) Yes, you there, blue chair – I like you – that’s it – SPRING!!  All hail the approach of Spring, longer days, a  soupçon of returning warmth, and green shoots bursting forth everywhere, like chickenpox, but not red or unpleasant, or… ok, scratch that – no, NOT the chickenpox, it’ll scar – I meant the simile… it was a bit off, wasn’t it… see, that’s the type of shoddy writing you get from me when SOMEONE (mentioning no names but glaring quite pointedly at the crumb-faced and distinctly bilious Marie-A over there… I hope your sofa is reinforced, young lady!) keeps distracting me with CAKE…

Ok, where was I? Yes, the imminent arrival of Spring. Because a large rodent 4000 miles away can’t be wrong, right? (If he is, I’m calling that punk’s attorney)To Phil you in, the Pennsylvania tradition has its roots in Europe, though a bear or badger was the usual prognosticator. The canny immigrants substituted groundhogs once in the US: easier to come by in the new Motherland than badgers, and more manageable than bears… Personally though, I prefer the “olde” traditional tale of the crone living in the woods… by early Feb she would have exhausted her store of winter firewood, and if an early spring was due, then, hey – nothing to worry your warts about – BUT, if further cold wintriness lay ahead, then the crone would simply magic up some sunny weather (see – she’s that kind of crone; didn’t you guess at the point where she knew what the weather would be for the next six weeks, hmm? DO keep up!), the better to gather further supplies of firewood by… Chez moi this year, where we have no badgers, bears or groundhogs, and a plump rat proved too nippy and swift, I used the “old crone” yardstick. We had some bright-enough-to-cast-a-shadow periods inbetween heavy cloud, so enough to gather a smidgen of firewood by, I reckon, but not sufficient to last a full six weeks… So, I declaim with the kind of cast-iron authority you can only get when backed up by dodgy folk superstition, Spring is Almost Here!! Yay!

Which brings me to the main thrust of my article today: I’m hoping I can infect you… not with chickenpox this time, but with… the Joy of Growing. The symbol of Easter – aside from thorns, crosses, betrayal and torturey deaths – is the egg: did you ever wonder why? It’s because this seemingly cold, hard, dead object cradles, within its inert exterior, the promise of new life. Crack! – and a fluffy chick beaks its way into the world! (But hopefully not into your omelette pan: that would be alarming… for both parties…) Now you have that image in mind – not the frying chick silly, the life within the shell – gosh, you’re a tough audience – ok, go on and HAVE some goshdarned cake if that’ll make you more cooperative, dammit!! – yes, along with that image, consider also the humble seed… for it too is a secret guardian of powerful everyday magic…  and you, yes YOU, can make that magic happen.  (Though you, err… might find it… a tad easier… if you just put down that gateau for a second?)

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Testa (Snigger)

You don’t need a garden to be able to grow fantabulous stuff. At Castle David, every windowledge is chock-full of sprouty things, saplings, and sundry green growth. In addition to that, we have planters and troughs along the outside walls edging the carpark space – plus while trying to help save a runover cat late one December Sunday, I fell to talking with a nice old lady co-rescuer who lives across the road, and who has offered us the edge-strip of her garden for us to plant out – yippee! – and we’re negotiating some space in a chum’s greenhouse… It’s addictive you see, and practical, and fun. Far from our postie minding his journey to our letterbox necessitating having to limbo, duck, swerve and sidestep in a sequence bettered hitherto only by John Travolta, he eventually confessed to a shared passion for growing, culminating in the swapping of one of our Paulownia tree saplings for some of his raspberry canes. First Class bartering, no stamp required! (actually more of a gentle treading, just to firm the soil down…)

We can talk technical tips in future dispatches if you like, but for now let’s ponder your choice of seeds. Consider the amount of space available to you, how much sunlight it receives, and the type of soil if you’ll be planting directly outside.  Many gorgeous flowers are a cinch to grow – nasturtiums for instance – or if you want returns-on-investment to shame the whizziest stockbroker, why not plump for planting some of your favourite herbs and veggies? For a first-timer, I heartily recommend the cherry tomato: they germinate quickly, and all the exciting growing stuff goes on above ground right where you can see it! Plus you’ll be able to feast on sweet fresh tomatoes, or slow roast to keep under herby oil, or make yummy sauces and chutneys – great for bartering or gifting too, if you have spare! The sharing – of advice, progress, AND produce – adds a social aspect to what is already a wonderful and practical hobby, not to mention a highly effective depression alleviator.

Do be warned though that growing trees from seeds /pips – though a real passion of mine – does involve cracking that particular tree’s arcane entry-and-activation code… stands to reason I suppose; to unlock something as spectacular and ultimately mighty as a tree from such a tiny package, you need to prove your worth by performing the right spell! There may be soaking, freezing, prising, bagging, pricking or sanding involved – or some combination of the above, or more: the internet is a rich source of tutorials if you want to see what’s involved for a particular plant. Some are easy-treesy – though be aware of “Apple Pip Lotto”: you may get a treelet of the variety the pip came from, or it MAY be the variety the blossom was pollinated with – often crab apple – so two pips from the same core may well give you two very different results!

Must sign off now and repot the avocados. Even if you’ve not ventured beyond rudimentary childhood cress experiments, or not dug a hole since the last ex “helped strengthen” the patio foundations, I hope I’ve persuaded you to get growing – let’s meet up again soon and compare shoots!

Adios. You may return to your muffins now.

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