The sun has been rather elusive for the past week, and the temperatures remain low. At the weekend we wrapped up warmly to brave the bitter winds outside; though not even lighting a fire in our old incinerator drum seemed to take the chill off as we burnt a pile of rubbish from the house while we worked.
As we moved firewood from the winter’s temporary piles on the kitchen garden back into the nearby woodstore to free up the beds ready for planting, occasionally pausing to feed or poke the fire, I was taken aback as tiny crystals of ice began to float down from the sky. “It’s snowing”, King of the Hill agreed as I pointed them out in wonder, somehow not expecting snow again, though it’s still early in the year. “It’s certainly cold enough for it.”
Understandably, then, we did not linger outside all day, though we finished moving the wood, and I managed quite a bit more weeding around the ornamental borders over the weekend: the particularly rampant weeds in the kitchen garden still remain untackled as yet, taunting me.
Another job we completed was to transfer the strawberry plants from last year’s roof-top experiment into the ground. While these planters of strawberries that we sited on the south-facing roof of one of our woodstores remained pest free – not even the birds found them – the practicalities of keeping them watered all summer were rather onerous and our yields were not as high as we’d hoped. A further drawback with this scenario – that we had foreseen, though not the extent of it – was that some soil washed down into the water butt that is fed from this roof, so that now needs draining down and cleaning.
We relocated the plants around our kitchen garden; the small sleeping crowns above were planted around our young blackcurrant bushes, which are covered in tiny pink buds of promise to come. Our Yorkshire rhubarb, which has moved around the country with me for years since my late grandfather gave me a chunk from his garden, should shortly be joining this extended fruit patch in front of the shed.
Other promising signs of life around the garden include regrowth on the gnarled crown of the Anthriscus sylvestris Ravenswing that I cut back last autumn. I’ll be pleased if this lives to see its second year, as this short-lived perennial often veers more towards biennial behaviour and I’ve found no seedlings nearby to replace it.
Wonderfully straight green spires have also appeared in this pot where I scattered Narcissus bulbocodium seeds from the RHS seed scheme last spring, spreading the remainder directly in the grass where I’d like them to grow.
The curly seedlings of Cyclamen coum seedlings in the leaf litter near the pots of their parents are a particularly welcome sight. I hope to spread these throughout this part of the garden, beneath the bench at the foot of the horse chestnut tree.
Not all of the growth in the garden is entirely welcome, though. As mentioned, I’ve been carefully weeding through the borders in the past few weekends whenever I’ve found an opportunity – removing unwanted visitors now can make quite a difference to the work that will need doing later in the season when growth is in full spate.
Along with the usual suspects – dandelions, self heal, bittercress, chick weed, couch grass, speedwell, willowherbs, nettles, oxalis and the pesky creeping buttercups – these fiends above are some of the most wanton weeds in our garden. And after two years of pulling this up, I still have no idea what it is.
It seems unfazed by cold weather, and I’ve never seen it flower, which rather puts paid to its passing resemblance to the Valerianella (corn salad/lamb’s lettuce) classification. One of its few saving graces is that it is easy to dig up, to reveal a fine set of fleshy white roots. You can also glimpse the red-tinted stolon which is the means by which these tight green rosettes of slightly glossy leaves colonise their way through the borders, forming dense mats if left to their own devices for ten minutes.
I feel that I should know what this is, yet its identity eludes me. It’s certainly nothing exotic, but my attempts to put a name to it have been fruitless. Family members who garden a few miles away said that they had never seen it until a few years ago when it sprang up and spread like wildfire through their gardens.
I do like to put a name to the foes that I wage war on, if only so that I can curse them appropriately as I dig them up. Any ideas?