Dissent in fairyland?

Shakespeare knew exactly what it was like to live through years like this one:

And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazèd world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which.

Global warming pundits would have you believe in changing weather patterns, but Shakespeare put it down to the quarrel between Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies. I’ll go with Shakespeare – he’s not often wrong.
Whatever the case, the garden has been hit hard – again. Three weeks of vicious cold easterlies, with some heavy night frosts has put paid to much young growth and most of the May flowers. Some stuff will recover; much won’t. Among the plants which usually survive May frost, but have succumbed this year:
All wisteria flower buds
All apple blossom (I never get many apples, but I do like the flowers)
Many of the buds on June-flowering azaleas
All young growth on prunus subhirtella autumnalis (normally completely hardy)
Most of the new growth on anenome japonica (ditto)
gunnera tinctoria (usally gets knocked back – no bad thing – but I think this year may have killed it)
Most acer leaves, all May-flowering rhododendrons…..etc. etc.
Still, I have only just cut the grass for the first time, which is a great saving in labour.The yellow streaks are nothing to do with drought. They are where the mower has cut deep into the moss. Mowers and grass collectors aren’t designed for damp moss, and the first cut of the year is always heavy going. It does make excellent compost though.I’ve managed to dig over the vegetable beds, ready for sowing. The rule of thumb round here is that you don’t sow until you can sit on the soil with a bare a**e without freezing. At the present rate, that won’t be before July.  I don’t devote much time to vegetables, so I only grow things that definitely taste better home grown than bought from the supermarket. These include carrots, peas, white turnips, spinach, swiss chard and broad beans. I’ve rejected cabbages, lettuces, potatoes onions and leeks on the grounds that they either breed slugs, don’t taste any better or are too labour intensive.
As you can see, my raised beds are built in true rustic style. I have four, each filled with a slightly different mix of soil. The best has a peat/sand/grit mix used by a local christmas-tree grower; the worst has a load from some city compost heap, which turned out to be full of convolvulus and thistle seed. One is composed of silt from the bottom of the pond, mixed with litter from the chicken house and ash from the wood-burning stoves. The strawberries seem happy in it.
I’ll leave you with some of the few bits of remaining colour:
Just a polyanthus against a background of marsh marigold (n.b. Linnie, not celandine)And here is a flowering quince (chaenomeles) with berberis darwinii behind it. I love these red/orange/yellow combinations, but it’s vital to keep them away from any pinks or purples.

17 thoughts on “Dissent in fairyland?

  1. You have blue sky, Mr K – congratulations. I’ve almost forgotten how very pretty it is. And the first pale-butter stripes of freshly mown moss is always very satisfying. Though it doesn’t half fill the grass-box quickly, as you say. Sorry to hear of your losses; the big wisteria at the Priory has lost all its buds too – if that is any consolation. Dave

  2. The blue sky appeared merely fleetingly – and I ran out with the camera before the next downpour. I’m astonished you lost your wisteria buds so far south. I always think I’m very lucky it usually survives with me, but for you to lose it too….. what a miserable summer it will be without that scent drifting across the English lawns. Truly a bad beginning to the year. I’d hold back on that tropical border, if I were you…

  3. So sorry the fairies in your neighborhood are at odds with one another. Your list of frozen plants reads like war dead– very sad. Especially the wisteria. But how I love the raised vegetable bed. It looks like pioneer craft, made of cut poles. I’ve never seen one like it and it fits your rugged landscape. You are fortunate to have REAL marsh marigold and not some Trojan Horse that sneaks in and attacks. In conclusion, surely purple would be wonderful with red/ yellow/orange but then colors are so subjective.

    • The raised bed is indeed made of cut poles, because there are a lot of spruce thinnings around, and why buy sawn timber when you have poles? I confess though, that grass infiltrates the gaps, and I have to use chemical warfare to stop it. So rusticity is not all it is cracked up to be.
      Linnie, purple would NOT be wonderful with the red/orange combination. It would be an outrageous piece of sans-culotterie, of the kind espoused by avant-garde designers maybe, but frankly tasteless. I had you down as a simple child of nature, how can you so disappoint me?

      • To stop the grass you must simply apply chinking between the poles as in a log cabin. Chinking is a kind of mortar made with horse hair and milk and oh maybe sand and lime, some stuff like that. It is used to fill the spaces between the logs and should work just great for the beds, much better than Agent Orange or etc.

        And what? What? Sans pants? Such an expression! It just seems to me that if you’re going to put red and yellow together, which is wretched, you might as well add purple.

        • Following your advice, I have been watching all sorts of strange log cabin videos. I have difficulty with horse hair and milk, but I do have plenty of clay… The trouble is that if I seal all the gaps, the drainage may suffer, and the one good thing about my rustic set-up is that the soil is never waterlooged. Which is so unusual that I sometimes go out in the rain just to look at it.

  4. Sorry for your loss… It really has been an “anything goes” sort of spring, hasn’t it?

    My uncle’s cherry plantation lost nearly half its bloom – and consequently half the production – when a late April frost struck.

  5. What a spring it has been so far, so sorry to hear about your devastating frosts, at least we have been spared that. Your raised bed looks fantastic, sturdy, anchored to the ground, certainly not going to be blown away when you have a gale!

  6. Hi Mr. K! This weather really hit hard on your garden, huh? The landscape still look great anyway, even though I think this won’t be of any consolation for you.
    I really like your raised bed(s?) too, it looks like something viking-made! I totally agree with you about the vegetable choices: I don’t bother about fussy or time consuming vegetables that might cost 1€/Kg and don’t taste any better.

      • I’ve always scattered some vegetables here and there in the garden, tomatoes in particular. This year I’m having my first ‘real’ veggie garden experience, with some very simple plants. I’ll post some pictures some day.

  7. What impressive looking raised beds Mr K and what wonderful advice. I’m sending P out when it stops raining to test the soil to see if its ready for planting. Oops too late I’e already put the tatties onions etc in.

  8. Oh me, a you educated folk wi Shakespear an funcy stuff, a hinna got a clue fit it means. Sorry to hear you have lost so much in this prolonged cold spell, I used to think Aberdeen was the coldest place in Scotland. I once had that Cel—I mean marsh marigolds years ago beside the pond, I will have to plant some more. Watch where you place your arse, I would hate to think of you getting permanently stuck to the spot.

    • Alistair – I’m sure you read Shakespeare from dawn to dusk – I don’t believe a word….

      My arse is still intact, but I still haven’t sown anything.

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