Spring is late this year

The last weekend in February arrived and I was determined to do all my February jobs in the appropriate month even though the forecast was for torrential rain on Sunday. So on Saturday, I went out to do my whole list

First I planted my two new apple trees

I have put in an espalier cooking apple tree (Bramley’s Seedling) which I plan to train along Western wall of my little back courtyard and in the small raised bed there I have also put in a dwarf dessert apple tree (Croquella) which will cross pollinate with the cooker and, with luck, produce at least a few bright red eating apples to tempt me out into the garden in September. I think they will be worth it even if it is just for the blossom – surely apple blossom is one of the most beautiful of all flowers.

The espalier will have it’s own custom-built trellising soon and I will have a brand new hobby, espalier pruning to add the other joys of wielding a pair of secateurs.

It is all about man’s mastery over his plants I guess, my repressed ruler-of the-world instincts maybe, but it is highly satisfying training a plant to grow where you want it to go and, with espalier trees, it is all about horizontal lines. I know I will enjoy this.

The two new fruit trees stand each side of my new gooseberry bush in this the smallest part of my very small garden where I am hoping to defy common sense and grow fruit and vegetables in small bite-sized crops just for the fun of it. If the weather is kind, there will be Summer and Autumn raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, goji berries, potatoes and peas.

After the planting, pruning.

I dug out those secateurs and plunged into the dense thickets of dead clematis branches reducing the plants to a few inches above ground level with my usual fear that I will be killing them off. Every year I think I have gone too far but, so far, they have all come back with renewed vigour. I shall have to wait and see.

I have also taken the knife to my climbing roses, cutting off the dead bits and bullying the strong branches to my obey plans for them which is to cover my flint walls and the trellising above them.

This is the third year for this new garden which I started from scratch when I moved to this small Georgian house in the middle of Lewes, in England. It should be its coming-of-age year so I am full of anticipation expecting to count my victories and my mistakes.

I went on, after the pruning , to move some of the terracotta pots into the Spring positions – small garden gardening is a bit like being a stage manager fussily distributing theatrical props to their position of best visibility. As of yet, there isn’t much to show, some snowdrops and a few golden croci (crocuses, if you must). Time though for that, rather late, February weeding session where the pedant in me goes round all the beds with, if not a fine tooth-comb or a magnifying glass, then the next best thing, good old patience where all those missed Autumn leaves and sticks are gathered up and then every trace of newly hopeful but minute weed seedlings are removed before they can establish themselves.

It is all highly enjoyable if it is your sort of thing. Nothing like gardening on a bright early Spring day and nothing like the moment either, when you put down your spade, take off those muddy boots and see order returned to your tiny domain.

This year though, it didn’t do to look back at photographs of the garden exactly a year ago. Spring is very slow compared to then when, exactly a year ago today, I already had a colourful display of early Spring bulbs….

and even my first daffodil.

They will all return in time, gardening is all about patience after-all – maybe this Spring we will get all our Spring flowers together just like those fanciful illustrations in children’s books. I am happy enough to have got all my jobs done before that rain arrived on schedule.

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