Today is, apparently, the ‘last day of winter’. If this is true, then it has come not a moment too soon – I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that I’ve had it up to here with winter. Particularly this winter, with its over-abundant rainfall, endlessly overcast skies and bone-biting arctic winds. But just when you think winter will never end small signs of spring start popping up all over the place – a flash of green leaf tips on an otherwise bare hawthorn hedge, a slender spear of wild garlic pushing through the muddy woodland floor, pristine clumps of snowdrops on roadside verges. There are lambs in the fields and the air is filled with birdsong that grows louder and more insistant by the day. And, cause for deep personal rejoicing, it’s light when I get up and light when I get home from work…
In the garden too, plants are showing signs of wanting to start growing and it’s time to shake off any lingering winter torpor and swing into action, and try to get on top of things before the garden outpaces the gardener. In my part of the world (Somerset), the ground is drying out enough to make digging and weeding a realistic prospect and I’ve been taking advantage of the favourable conditions to tackle some weed infested beds, pulling out long runs of couch roots and the hop-skip-and -jump root-runs of empire building buttercups.
The roses are gearing up for the new season and I’ve taken a few opportunistic cuttings, hoping to translate some of that spring vigour into new plants. I love taking rose cuttings – it’s a hugely satisfying and almost ludicrously simple process that involves nothing more complicated just sticking a piece of cut rose stem into the ground. Some roses of course are keener to grow than others – the thornless magenta rambler ‘Veilchenblau’ for example has been particularly obliging in the past and I currently have high hopes of a ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ cutting which already looks like it’s going to romp away. I do admire the monsigneurial velvety lilac-purple ruffles and heady fragrance of this old, Gallica rose.
Herbaceous perennials such as echnicaea, achillea, aster, sedum, and geranium are burgeoning and also offer opportunities for creating new plants. There are a few gaps in the borders that I’d like to fill and in the prevailing spirit of thriftiness (my personal theme for 2013, alas) I’m going to be sharpening my spade over the next couple of weeks and dividing any likely looking clumps. By multiplying plants already in situ, I’m hoping to achieve some pleasing rippling repetitions and rhythms running through the borders. If it all goes to plan, a spot of divide and rule now should pay dividends in a few months’ time – an gloriously easy and frugal way to fill a garden.