I love this time of year when the spring seed catalogues start dropping through the letterbox. My favourite of these is from Sarah Raven (sarahraven.com). It’s beautifully produced and the gorgeous pictures hold a promise that the spring and then the summer are only around the corner. It’s a world away from those rather agricultural seed catalogues of the past. I know these still have their place and their fans, especially among those of you of a more numerical bent. But I need pictures, glorious pictures of perfect, puff-ball dahlias, spires of pinky-blue larkspur and clouds of Cosmos and Nigella. I need to see images of glistening raspberries, jewel-like clusters of tomatoes and fit-to-burst peas, to jump start my desire to just get out there and garden. I lust over this catalogue in the winter months, it galvanises me into action.
Entering my greenhouse for the first time in January marks the beginning of the gardening year. I have my routine (don’t we all), I turn on the radio and start by having a little tidy up. Truth be told, I haven’t done a great deal of actual hands-in-the-soil gardening yet. I’ve given scant water to the scented geraniums which are over-wintering out there, but I have planted my sweet pea seeds in trays. They seem to do well in the greenhouse, and I have a heater in there to keep the temperature just above freezing.
I’ve turned my thoughts to a bed which is fairly close to the house and therefore needs to look respectable. It was planted and seeded up to create an artful wild flower meadow but, apart from the one year when the Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace) was truly glorious, it has never really worked. Wild flower meadows are lovely and you’d think they would be relatively easy to achieve, not in my experience they’re not!!
Towards the end of last year we cleared the bed and have continued to hoe it over to stop the return of any undesirables. I have decided to use good, old-fashioned shrubs in here. Much as I love my perennials, I have quite enough of those high maintenance lovelies in my garden already, and they give me more than enough grief as it is. I’ve chosen good old Viburnum tinus mixed up with some Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ for structure, colour and winter interest. I also want to add some Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, just because I love it. Now, I know these plants aren’t going to set the world alight, and that they have the smack of municipal landscaping about them, but sometimes you just need an easy life.