The wind has been wild. Petals are strewn around the garden, while plants have taken on rakish angles.
I have become keenly aware in the past few days of how often I hesitate as I pass a window, and idly look for a glimpse of black and white in the garden or hedgerows. I catch such glimpses much less often now, as Xander tends to sleep inside more in the daytime, venturing out at dusk or under cover of darkness, on much shorter adventures than his sister. We hope that he is not searching for her.
Trapped indoors for a few days by fierce winds and driving rain, I eventually found solace from the week’s sorrow in my sewing machine, working on gifts for friends: a baby changing mat, a tote bag, a skirt for a little girl. It was good to finally have a sense of purpose after several static days of grief and loss.
On Saturday, the winds dropped to a manageable level and the sun returned. We leapt outside. In the aftermath of the recent storms, some branches of the brightly blooming snapdragons that surpassed expectations by overwintering lay severed on the ground; the thick stems of the mighty cardoon were splintered and, upended, sent sprawling across neighbouring plants. One slender ragged stem remains; time will tell whether this flourishes to earn its position, or is ‘edited’ out in the coming weeks.
In defiance, a beacon of scarlet shone in the borders as the top bud on the oriental poppy finally opened and basked in the sun against the emerald green stems of the teasel behind.
The foxglove which languished on the ground was gently recovered and staked back into position, as were several fallen stems of broad beans in the kitchen garden.
We also grasped the opportunity presented by this dry sunny day to walk down to one of our favourite local foraging spots, and came back with several dozen heads of elderflowers. They sat on the kitchen worktop for a few hours, filling the house with their heady scent until we dealt with them; King of the Hill used a few handfuls to start brewing elderflower champagne, the rest I dried for elderflower tea – a pungent but effective expectorant against winter colds.
The recent bouts of warm wet weather have also brought an unwelcome visitor early to the garden; garlic rust.
The rust was much worse on our hardneck variety, Sprint; so much so that we decided we must harvest these now or lose them as the rust advanced down from the foliage into the bulbs. Cursory scratching at the surface revealed promisingly substantial bulbs, so I lifted them all, immediately discarding the rust-afflicted foliage for destroying.
These bulbs are actually the largest we have grown to date, despite being harvested a month earlier than last year – the variety ‘Sprint’ really has lived up to its name, and managed to just beat the rust. Further inspection revealed that the softneck heads, however, are still far from formed, although the rust is not so advanced on their foliage. It will be a race against time for them to fatten before the disease spreads down to damage the bulb, it would be a shame to lose them as they store so much better than the hardneck types.