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Growing Stuff  Articles:   15. A Man for all Seasons
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15. A Man for all Seasons

With apologies to writer Robert Bolt and his subject, Sir Thomas Moore, I’ve always thought that the play/film title applies best to a gardener. Apologies also to the ladies who, arguably, outnumber men in the garden! If you’ve ever been to our ‘Seasonal Pages’ here on Rochford Life, you’ll know that we are keen season watchers.

But it’s when you come to life in the garden that season-watching really kicks in. We have written before on the changes that take place in the garden, but at this moment we focus entirely on the wonder of ‘seasons’.  They really do bear watching. Let’s start with winter.

Winter sees the hardy gardener getting out there, breaking up the soil in big clods so the frost can do its work of breaking up the soil even more. Winter is also the time of clearing away some of the last remnants of debris from last year that got left after the autumn clean up.  As winter eases away and spring begins to make itself felt, the canny gardeners gets out there after a rainy period, knowing that the damp ground is now idea for pulling out the long-root weeds. Clear the ground at this time of the year and it’s easy to control thereafter.  Season watchers are weather and ground watchers.

So then comes spring! Down the right of this page are a series of photos ALL TAKEN ON THE SAME DAY in mid-March. Season watchers learn to watch the budding of trees. The ornamental cherry has been in blossom some ten days when these photos were taken, a plum is just starting to burst forth with buds and potential blossom, another tree is showing not a sign of change while the mighty Oak refuses to drop its leaves from last year until spring is really under way. For it, the arrival of buds will coincide with the dropping of the leaves.  Season watchers become tree watchers.

Throughout winter, birdlife and ‘creature life’ generally is rather sparse. As spring starts to come in, birds appear again. In a spring that is warm, butterflies and even dragonflies start appearing early. Ladybirds will probably follow a bit later. If it’s been a harsh winter bugs will be minimal; if it’s been a mild winter, bugs will abound. Urban foxes tend to be around all year, but if you have the joy of hedgehogs they tend to come out of hibernation a little later and if you are cursed with destructive badgers, they too tend to appear a bit later.  If you have a pond, the appearance of frogs, toads, newts and frogspawn produce excitement.  Season watchers become creature watchers.

What a season spring is! Life bursting forth in all directions! The early bulbs are bringing the first real colours to beds and pots alike. Bushes and hedges take on a green tinge and then leaves push forth and create the structure and appearance that will gradually grow more dense and thick.  Spring is a time of decision making for the gardener. Seeds, cuttings, plug plants or fully developed potted plants?  What to put where?  Trees, shrubs, bushes, flowers or vegetables? Decision, decisions, decisions! You look in the magazines  to a guide to sowing seeds and there are those ominous words, “Approximate sow-from dates (remember this depends on weather)” Season watchers are cultivators and, again, weather watchers..

From now on and well into summer, it is planting and growing time. Spring and summer are the two main times when the garden will change its shape and colours and textures. As summer moves on there is dead-heading to be done to keep the plants flowering. Pick flowers and more appear.  As the year moves on vegetables are harvested. There is NOTHING like vegetables just harvested!  Most of us don’t make much out of growing and harvesting vegetables and fruit, but the pleasure of the taste cannot be beaten. What to do with the harvest? Freeze it, bottle it, turn it into sauces, chutneys and so on! Season watchers can also become producers. What pleasures!


Then August and the holiday season seems to evaporate and suddenly the days don’t seem so long and there is a nip in the air. Leaves start turning brown or red or yellow and the season of bonfires (not very pc these days sadly) and composting is upon us. Straggly plants need tidying up, cutting back, dividing up. It is the time of the great autumn cleanup, a satisfying time after the garden has run amok for so many months.


Oh, so much more we could write but this is probably enough to say look up, look out and enjoy the wonder of the climate we have in this part of the world. So often the word is changeable; just when we think the rain has settled in for another week, the clouds disappear and sun prevails. The next talk is of droughts and hose-pipe bans. Frosts come and go. Sun comes and goes, Rain comes and goes, and every now and then snow comes and stays and then goes. What a mixed bag we experience, and if you spend time outside you become even more aware of it and the wonders of the changing garden around you. Change is here to stay, as they say.


We no doubt each have our favourite seasons. Mine are spring and autumn. Summer is good and winter is bad. Spring is wonderful as new life appears, autumn is wonderful as it all slows down and amazing colours appear in the trees. Summer – if hot – I like, but actually if it pours with rain that’s not fun, and if there is a drought everything in the garden takes on a grey and tired look. Winter! OK for children and young enthusiasts, but I could do away with snow and ice. Cold I don’t mind as long as there is a blue sky to go with it!  Grey, I can do without!  Grey makes the garden look dull. Sun makes the garden look wonderful, whatever time of year it is. More sun please!


So there we are, enjoy the seasons as you can. Watch the changes that take place and marvel at this incredible world. If you wanted a subject for a photographic study it would be the clothes people wear in the different seasons – or what they have on their feet, but that is a whole other area of fascinating investigation. The seasons have a lot to answer for!


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