Thursday, 13 June 2013

Does Anyone Know When The Gardening Year Starts?

The gardening year is a mysterious concept since it appears to have no official beginning or end. This is hardly surprising given that gardeners in one region are merrily casting clouts for summer, while elsewhere people are pouring themselves into thermal underwear and hunkering down for a long, harsh winter. Matters are further complicated by the fact that in some areas the gardening year is six months long. Even so, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a day when we celebrated our gardening new year?

Wisteria at Magdalene College, Cambridge

Perhaps there is a global New Year Garden Party to which I haven't been invited (which is a shame, because I would turn up to the opening of a compost bin), but I suspect that we all have our own personal gardening new years which are sparked by significant events such as the quiet emergence of a favourite plant or the ceremonial plugging-in of the propagator. 

Wisteria at St Michael-at-Plea Church, Norwich

My gardening new year begins with an event which occurs with annual regularity sometime between mid-March and the end of May. It is the point at which I make a new year’s resolution. The trigger for this is that I get inspired and excited by someone else’s garden or the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and resolve to do better things with my own plot of land. This is all good and well, but 2013 is turning out to be particularly inspiring and I have resolutions coming out of my ears on a daily basis and this has resulted in me celebrating more new years than the Queen has annual birthdays. My latest resolution has been prompted by this...

Wisteria sinensis, a lovely plant in someone else’s garden. In my garden it tends to get neglected. I know perfectly well how to keep this exuberant climbing shrub under control, but by the time I have helped to whip my clients' plants into shape, I fancy a change of gardening tasks, so I give my Wisteria a half-hearted secateurial reprimand and trundle off to do something more interesting. If you have ever been the custodian of one of these brutes, you will know that pruning Wisteria seems like a never-ending task. No sooner do you turn your back than it gathers up a drainpipe and hurls it to the ground. Ignore it and it will come tap, tap, tapping on your window and should you open the window, you may very well find yourself sharing house space with it. 

 Wisteria at the window

Our Wisteria sinensis was growing in the garden when we bought the farm and although I would not choose to plant anything with the potential to grow so large, I cannot grub out a healthy, happy plant which would behave perfectly well if I made time to train it properly. In any case, it is loved by bees and offers great shelter to birds, so it is too valuable to part with. As I type, the front door is open so that I can enjoy the scent of its fragrant lilac flowers and I must admit that I love this plant in spite of its excesses. So today’s resolution is to bring order to the purple tangly chaos. Tomorrow? Well that’s another year. * **

* I will start by gently removing unwanted new growth over the summer, then in February when there are no birds nesting, our Wisteria will see some serious lopper action. 
** Since this is a new year's resolution, I reserve the right to break it.