The sights, smells and tastes of nature

Oriental poppies are persistent. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Oriental poppies are persistent. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Everyday in the garden is different at this time of year, yet there’s a feeling we’ve been here before. You might discover a row of seeds starting to germinate, new flowers appearing in the border, or greenfly on the roses. It’s rather like an annual reunion, meeting old friends and adversaries you’ve not seen for some time.

It does not feel like a year ago since I was on my knees, camera in hand, waiting for bumblebees to settle on the chives flowers. Yet there I was last week, same position, anticipating yet another shot for the files.

The bulbs of these plants multiply rapidly and groups planted along the sides of two island beds have developed into thick rows, hence many more flowers and bees, we hope. Self-seeded plants have also appeared in joints along the flagged paving. There’ll have to be some thinning out in autumn, from which garden club members might benefit.

A packet of the annual herb borage (Borago officinalis) was sown in the late 1980’s and I’ve not bought any since, yet seedlings emerge every year, grow to almost one metre tall and erupt with blue flowers that bees adore.

The young plants soon form a tap root so any attempt to lift and organise them in groups must be done early. I soak the ground around them the night before and lift with a trowel next morning.

Last week under the warm sun it was time for the annual borage photo-call, and as I knelt before the group which buzzed with activity, a finger and thumb automatically reached out to rub one of the coarse leaves. Ah, deja vu, the fragrance of cucumber never diminishes.

Several plants behave like the borage, self-seeding all over the garden and providing opportunities to create free displays. The first flowers are opening on a group of foxgloves that were rounded-up in sheepdog fashion during March. A patch of fuller’s teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), similarly organised, is sending up their prickly bloom spikes at present.

This survival instinct emerges so often in the summer border, with the sudden re-appearance of a flowering plant you dug up and replanted elsewhere some years ago. It happens when a small piece of root is left in the soil and regenerates over time. Brilliant though they are in flower, the oriental poppy and Japanese anemone need watching in this respect.

Both were moved from their original planting sites a few years ago, but growth persists in their original footprint.

Asparagus spears appearing faster than we can harvest them seems familiar too, but surely it’s not 12 months since picking stopped to give that glorious feathery foliage a chance to grow? Oh yes it is, and tasty though the vegetable has been, the time has come to concentrate on building energy in the roots and crowns for 2016.

But the arrival most eagerly anticipated is due this very weekend. Come hail, rain or snow, the last week in June is always pencilled in for the first early potato.

The crop was planted on Good Friday and has made decent top growth considering the mixed weather so we are hopeful, but rather than 
sacrifice a whole plant by 
digging, we’ll try a little 
foraging by hand amongst those grown under polythene mulch.

Over recent weeks, locally-bought Jersey Royals have provided a slight reminder of what new potatoes taste like but there’s no substitute for the real thing.