Garden devastation and uncertain future

Another stint in the North is over.  Back home again to try to get to grips with the wreckage in the garden left by my absence last summer and the unusually cold winter.  By now it’s emerging which plants have survived and which are beyond hope.

With the trend to warmer winters many people, including me, have planted Cordeline palm trees to take advantage of the Mediterranean climate the media has led us to expect.  Reports of ‘Global Warming’ have almost universally dumbed down or completely ignored the science to the extent that the possibility of UK climate being dramatically cooled by a switch in direction of the Gulf Stream has been largely ignored.  Garden centres have increasingly stocked semi-arid plants so that householders can prepare for the drought and the heat.  Now many of these xerophytes are dead.  There are solitary Cordeline trunks sticking up like fingers all over the place, either completely devoid of foliage or with a few bedraggled leaves flopping down from the crown.  Some, the longer established ones, have shoots appearing at the bottom.  Whether the more recently planted ones, like those in my garden will survive is another matter.

Little has survived in the Blue House.  That was planted up specifically with tender plants which couldn’t withstand the cold and the wet of a British winter.  But they couldn’t survive -10oC for weeks on end.  The toughest of the plants has turned out to be the agaves.  Supposedly able to withstand down to -5oC with very few exceptions they seem to have come through unscathed.  In particular the 2 largest, each about 5 foot high and 6-7 feet across look untroubled.  Which could be an irony.  They are reaching the size where in their natural environment they might soon be flowering and the shock of the winter could have triggered that.  Flower spikes on these agaves are usually 20 feet plus.  The Blue House is 15 feet at its highest so that the flower spikes may have to be cut off.  After they put out a flower spike they die.

The 10 days that I am at home before returning once more up North is crunch time.  A number of strategic decisions are required for the garden and the Blue House.   In particular, what do I plant in the veg garden?  Which raises the big question, “What am I going to be doing in the Summer?”. Will I be around to weed, earth-up and harvest?  No point in planting crops which will be producing while I’m away.

I still don’t know.  Haven’t made my mind up.  There are many options.  The future is a blank sheet.

I have more or less decided that much as I would like to, for a number of reasons not least of which is cost, I won’t be going back to Canada this ski season.  And I have also more or less decided to knock on the head the idea of going to Greece for Easter, something I have wanted to do for a long while.   But mulling over the options for the summer I am still no clearer.

I’m still inclined to go to Greece again for many reasons not least of which is that the creaks in my body are more comfortable in Greek heat and my brain is more stimulated by bright sunshine rather than the tepid murk of Grey Britain.

So what to do in the garden in the next 10 days?  I have started to clear the winter’s devastation including massive clumps of now dead phormiums.  I have also started to clear some of the weeds which flourished in my absence in Greece last summer.   It’s at times like this that a large garden can make one quite despondent.  There is a massive job to do to restore the status quo never mind continue the rolling 5-year improvement plan I have had for the last 35 years.

And planting?  I have ordered some of the ‘Salad Blue’ seed potatoes which I planted very successfully a couple of years ago and when they have chitted I shall plant those for a start.  I also had a lot of garlic plants last summer which are starting to sprout.  So I’ll plant them.  It will be wrench not to have courgettes, I really missed them last summer. And what else?  I really don’t know.  Yet!

But the thought of Greece is beginning to grab me again.


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