Gardening at Whichford Pottery with Harriet Rycroft
Sunday, 9 January 2011
New Year, Old Leaf.
After a longer than expected holiday we're all back and only some of us are on a diet of worms.
To think that I thought the weather in early December was extreme! By New Year's Day my fingernails were long, unchipped and strangely clean - gardening was almost impossible for a fortnight. I don't live far from Whichford but couldn't get there from the 17th December to the 28th and that visit was just to check the greenhouse plants over. We had 14 inches of snow and the freezing temperatures (-8C recorded INSIDE the polytunnel!) meant that our lovely, picturesque roads stayed treacherous for a long time. The snowy picture of the courtyard garden here was taken by Lynda, who makes the hand-pressed ware, lives in the village and is a dab hand with a digital SLR.
Snow just before Christmas
Now we are all back at work, and pleased to see each other too. The outdoors department does look a bit sorry for itself, though: we hadn't finished clearing the autumn leaves before the big freeze clamped them down, in fact the frozen oak leaves were still on the trees at Christmas. Now there is a slimy brown layer in and around pots and the only way to tackle it is by hand, the leaf-blower is useless and rakes and brooms provide only limited help. Jim did find a chap to do some casual leaf-clearing in November and he worked for about half a day at which point the weather got all British, he put down his rake to announce "I don't work in the rain," and we never saw him again.
Can spring be far away?
Frosty oak leaves , late December
There is hope among the slime, however. It is amazing that so few plants have given up the ghost and relatively balmy weather (well, 3C) combined with slowly lengthening days means that previously flat violas are bravely flowering and shoots of crocus, iris and scilla are poking their noses above the rims of the pots. The birds are tweedling and flittering about: dunnocks like furtive mice among the packing straw and tinkling chains of long-tailed tits like pink and black teaspoons moving from tree to tree.
Mrs B enjoying an apple, spring 2010
Mrs B the one-footed blackbird who raises several broods a year in the garden has become so tame that I am a bit worried about her. I literally bumped into her as she flew up from her feeding station on the barrel by the staff room a few days ago and I wonder if her sluggishness might be due to weakness; I hope not, as we always enjoy watching her feeding the nestlings in the honeysuckle behind the bench.
Best news of all this week is that my robin is back! Well, I think it's my robin. I hope it's my robin. Last year he (or she, how do you tell?) got so tame that he would take small worms from my hand and follow me even into the greenhouse but I didn't see him after midsummer. Now I have a little khaki and orange shadow in the garden again, with a peremptory "Tick, tick!" announcing his presence in the hedge.
I'd better stop being distracted by feathered friends and carry on with the clear-up, picking off dead flowers and blackened foliage, sweeping and scraping. Not glamorous work but satisfying nonetheless as the displays are immediately brightened and with a bit of luck the housekeeping will keep plants healthy, ready for the spring surge. But if it snows again I may have to emigrate.