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..