ISSUE 64  |  Loft Living

An English Gardener’s Diary: Get a Grip on Spring

March 20, 2013 3:00 PM

BY Clemmie Hambro

Goodness me, March already. It is amazing how the whole thing creeps up on you. One moment you are dawdling around complaining about getting your third cold in a row, and how February seems to be going on forever, and that you will simply die if this winter malarkey goes on for one minute more. The next you are bang smack in the middle of March—when everything needs to be gotten a grip of. Horticulturally speaking.

It is a month where you stand around wondering if there might be a late frost or not, and if it is too soon to sow seeds outside, or too early to prune your hydrangeas. It is the month where later in the year you look back and think – I should have prepared better in March while I still had the time. Where are my sweet pea seedlings, where are my tomato plants? Where are my lilies? Good god woman, what on earth were you doing in March?

Well, I tell you what I was doing. I was standing in my garden on Exmoor in the south west of England—a beautiful if very wet and cold part of the world—staring at the new buds, thinking, “I think we are through the worst,” having a little wander, feeling the faint thrill that the onset of spring inevitably gives one, then heading back inside to make a cup of tea because it suddenly felt cold again.

Above: Mid-March in the quintessential English garden. Photograph via Ben Pentreath.

And so thus it is every year, because the thing about your garden, is that is an extension of yourself, your life, and the life of your family. And I am one of life’s procrastinators so things that I need to do in March, like chitting my potatoes, or sowing my cosmos seeds and planting my summer-flowering bulbs, inevitably gets delayed. I also have three small girls ages two, four, and six, whose capacity for trailing about after me has its limits. It also means that my capacity for anything much has its limits.

Above: Made from hand-selected pieces of untreated spruce, a nine-cubby Wall Unit can be fixed to the wall or sit atop a potting bench. It’s £110 from Garden Trading.

To compound matters, I only manage to garden at the weekends and in the holidays because we live in town during the week and then sometimes I am too tired or lazy to do it at all and just want to stand around watching the birds and taking a few deep breaths.

Above: A set of essential hand tools—including a trowel, fork, and weeder—in a hessian Tool Roll with a cream colored cotton tie is $79 NZ from Father Rabbit.

But I love, love, love my garden and the process of gardening. It can enrage me and surprise me but ultimately makes me happy time and time again. Pruning an apple tree is not only brilliant exercise but also the best therapy in the world (practically like pruning out the dead and diseased parts of oneself), and pulling carrots with your children is the most satisfying thing you can possibly do, and picking a bouquet of flowers that you have grown yourself is truly life enhancing.

Above: A lightweight Zinc Watering Can with a long spout delivers a gentle stream of water to seedlings and young container herbs; $18 from Terrain.

So it doesn’t really matter if you haven’t sowed your sweet peas, or dug in your summer-flowering bulbs on time, because you can do it next week or even the week after. As long as you are in your garden having a lovely time it doesn’t actually matter all that much. Well, that’s how I see it.

Above: A wooden String Bobbin made of spruce comes with a small ball of twine and is £10 from Garden Trading.

And here we are at the beginning of spring, the most exciting of all the seasons, and it honestly doesn’t matter what we all don’t get around to because in the end, spring does it utterly beautifully all on its own.

For more signs of spring, see DIY: An Instant Carpet of Snowdrops.