Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The gardener stirs from her winter slumbers

What a lovely day we had yesterday in West London. The sun shone, the sky was blue, the temperatures were mild and, all of a sudden, it felt positively spring-like, which was a bit mad given how the day before we’d been hiding indoors from hailstones the size of Mint Imperials.

Anyway, I have a confession to make: I’m still a country girl at heart. I grew up in the beautiful rolling hills of South Tyrone, and every spring-time, when the sap starts rising in the hedgerows, I get a rush of something primitive in my veins that drives me out into the garden.

I know. I know. ‘Steady on, it’s only the middle of January,’ I hear you say, but yesterday’s burst of primal enthusiasm produced enough momentum to turn the pot of gloom that resides in my front porch into a pot of something approaching welcome cheer.

The problem is, at this time of the year, the garden centres and plant sellers don’t have much to offer in the way of plants for creating pots of welcome cheer. All the red and white Christmas cyclamens and berry-laden plants have gone, and there’s not a whole load of anything colourful left behind to use until the spring bulbs make their debut.

In the end I got some sweet little matching/ clashing garden primroses from the flower stall just outside Sainsbury’s in West Ealing. I’m very keen on matching/ clashing pinks, reds and oranges at the moment. But the resulting ensemble is only OK rather than eye-catching. I’ll blame the lack of choice for my failure to deliver pizzazz, and move on quickly without a photograph.

On our mini-plant hunt Maxi and I trawled through the Osterley Park, Wyevale (dog-friendly – hip hip hooray!) garden centre, where they have quite a decent half-price sale on pretty nearly all of their outdoor plants. We came home with this little trove: a blackcurrant bush, a loganberry bush, a white clematis that promises to have attractive coppery leaves, a buddleia bush that promises to attract swarms of butterflies in summer, a bag of seed potatoes, a tray of curly kale plants and some seeds for salad greens.

I’m looking forward to making preserves with the loganberries and blackcurrants.  I’m already imagining a rich blackcurrant jam, delicately flavoured with star anise and a hint of vanilla … . Hopefully they won’t wither and die in the meantime, or chose to do all their fruiting when I’m on my summer holidays!

We’ve already planted the white clematis to grow through the (rather bare) under parts of an old climbing rose that’s gone a bit leggy at the front of our house. With any luck it will do a good job of hiding the ‘bald’ bits.

Every year I get a few seed potatoes and plant them in patio containers to harvest in June/ July. It's like some kind of earth-magic how they multiply and grow in the soil when no one's looking. You see, you can take the girl out of Ireland, but you can’t take the Irish potato-mania out of the girl!

My garden isn't huge, but it's big enough for me to grow a few crops of this and that for the kitchen, which I find hugely satisfying. I love to be outside surrounded by greenery and birdsong. It's such a great stress-buster, and I've noticed that Emilio, my eight year-old son, gets a bit of a buzz out of it as well.

I've just learnt on my travels about the 'Edible Garden Show', a not-to-be-missed event that's taking place at Alexandra Palace from 28th to 30th March.

'Perfectly timed for the beginning of the growing season, the show is buzzing with tips on keeping bees, raising chickens, brewing beer, saving energy, mouth-watering baking and dishing up delicious meals using home-grown ingredients,' according to the website.

Sounds good to me!

You can check it out for yourself here: Edible Garden Show

Anyway, happy gardening, and maybe I'll see you at Ally Pally come March!

Bonny x

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