Every weekend is pretty much the same during the lockdown. A time to catch up on sleep, to read, phone friends and family, make lists, walk the dogs, eat, drink and do a few jobs outside. There are a great many substantial projects that need to be tackled at The Watch House: fixing the roof, replacing a ceiling, painting the bedrooms and mending the front gate to name but a few. All require skills, resources, time or energy that we don’t have right now. I consider each postponed task as I spy a damp patch, an area of flaking paintwork or make an attempt to elbow my way into the house. A little voice in one ear tells me that I should jolly well get on with it before matters get worse, whilst another reminds me that if I start something on such an ambitious scale I am highly unlikely to have the wherewithal to complete it. My compromise is generally to attempt some small, insignificant job to appease my guilt over not tackling the project that might really have made a difference. Looking deep into myself, and sharing more than I perhaps should, I think this might be the one thing that holds me back in life: always too busy making baby steps to take big strides forward.
Today, instead of tackling anything too demanding, I will be giving the plants in the garden room a little TLC, putting Christmas decorations in the roof, mulling whether to purchase fruit trees for the allotment, choosing paint colours for the rooms I won’t be decorating any time soon and waiting for much-anticipated snow to start falling.
The week ahead is going to be pretty tough, so today I have a low appetite for engagement in anything too demanding of mind or body. On Friday I took some time off and spent five happy hours on the allotment weeding, tidying and planting a couple of bags of bulbs I found lurking in a cupboard. (My post ‘When Is Too Late to Plant Spring Bulbs?’ is what drives traffic to my blog for most of the winter. As such, I am grateful for it. If you are curious but don’t have time to read it, the answer is ‘not quite yet’. Tulips, providing the ground is not frozen and the bulbs are still firm, will do perfectly well if you plant them immediately. Other spring-flowering bulbs are a bit dicey, but if you have them hanging about, plant them as soon as possible and see what happens.) I was surprised to find that the forgotten daffodil bulbs, N. ‘Bright Jewel’, were still in perfect condition. Normally they’d be looking a bit dry and shrunken by now, sending out long shoots in a desperate search for light. I planted them close to one another next to Erysimum ‘Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine’ and Tulipa ‘Banja Luka’. An unsubtle but cheery combination that is quite appropriate for an allotment.
The big job that needs doing on the allotment is replacement of the edging to all the beds. The timber edging we inherited a year ago – mostly constructed of pallet wood and old decking pierced with an abundance of rusty nails – was 60% rotten, 20% decrepit and 20% ugly. It’s now 80% rotten, 20% ugly and only about 50% effective so we need to take action: I can bear some degree of rusticity but when the look starts to border on abandoned I can ignore it no more. We have toyed with the idea of living without any edging at all, but with paths of woodchip and couch grass running riot we’d have a hell of a job keeping the plot tidy without some kind of barrier. (Before anyone comments, I have no expectation that a simple plank of wood will keep couch grass at bay, but one has to start somewhere and I’m not prepared to use weedkiller.) We both have slightly more enthusiasm for this task than we do for decorating, so we’ve started the search for affordable timber locally. It’s a huge plot so we are considering reclaimed scaffolding boards or something similar so that the project does not cost us the earth.
The Gin & Tonic Garden and the path that leads to it from the street is largely neglected between November and March. The tiny courtyard space is pleasant enough to look out on from the library over winter but the sun does not grace us with its presence for many hours until April. Last weekend I cleared sacks full of brown, frazzled clematis foliage from the fence, noting dejectedly that this needs repainting before the climbers started to cover it again. Another job for the list ….. probably heading in The Beau’s direction. I finally dispensed with an underplanting of Pelargonium ‘Orange Fizz’, which has survived but not impressed, and will replace this with more of the white form of Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana which seems to perform better in a slip of earth not more than six inches wide.
Anticipating cold weather I have moved most of my hardy succulents and tender shrubs close to the house. Here they’ll be warm, dry and somewhat sheltered: the concept of shelter is always relative here on the east coast of England. Together they make a pleasing little posse. I feel inspired to work on the arrangement over the coming weeks in order to introduce more colour and variety. Correa ‘Marian’s Marvel’ is a delight, producing its lobster-pink and avocado-green bells for months and months on end. Above it towers Anisodontea ‘El Royo’ (some refer to it as ‘El Rayo’, I am not sure who is correct), another shrub with an incredible capacity for producing blooms throughout the winter. Anisodontea is closely related to mallows and lavateras, just as its pink, hibiscus-like flowers might suggest. It’s not a shapely plant at the end of the season but I have no intention of cutting it back and curtailing the display.
Here I must leave you to undertake more trivial jobs that will nevertheless give me some sense of achievement during this peculiar period we are living through. Despite all the opportunities that lockdown might offer, the current situation provides so little motivation. Or perhaps it’s just me? For now, baby steps are all I’ll be taking as we edge towards spring. Then matters will be taken out of our hands and our gardens will dictate what action must be taken and when. TFG.