Garden Journal - January 31st 2005

Wildchicken Garden Journal - Miranda Hodgson

 

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Jan 31st 2005 - Sunsets

Iím pleased to say that one of the root cuttings, taken on the 5th of January, has put out shoots. I canít be sure what it is yet but suspect that itís the Papaver because of the roundness of the shoot tips. Could be wrong, of course; weíll see.

 

"...what their length would be if one blew down and fell towards the house"

This has been a week of turmoil in more ways than one. There has been more strong wind and a good deal of wetness so Iíve done little outside. Iím waiting for a dry day so that I can get outside and take up this turf from under the tree, but donít want to be stamping about on whatís left of the lawn if itís so muddy. Today a cold wind is blowing strongly from the north and itís been raining every ten minutes or so.

 

 

The mature beech and sycamore trees over the road are bending just enough for me to start considering what their length would be if one blew down and fell towards the house. My guess is that the belt of sycamores were planted in front of the shallower rooted beeches for a good reason and that weíre safe.

 

What I can get on with in this weather is starting off some seeds. Meg from college very kindly gave me an envelope of Eccremocarpus scaber seeds this week, after Iíd admired them last summer in her garden, and they can be started off in the propagator about now. Itís a climbing plant with tubular orange flowers and finely cut dark green foliage. It doesnít weigh a lot and will work well to twine through shrubs.

"...The small brightly coloured flowers stood out beautifully against the dark green foliage of the hedge ."

I saw some of it growing up a high conifer hedge that borders the kitchen garden at Burton Agnes, north-east of Hull and not far from Beverley. The small brightly coloured flowers stood out beautifully against the dark green foliage of the hedge and Iíd love to see it growing in our garden.

 

I have so many seeds that I shall pass some on to friends and family; sure theyíd like them too. Although Iíve read that Eccremocarpus isnít fully hardy, the soil here is sandy and well-drained so Iím willing to bet that it will survive in this area if the plants have the protection of larger plants about them.

 

To the second turmoil: the mock exam. It was neither totally serious nor full length but simply there to show us what we need to do for the Big Day. We sat down first to 25 short questions, with one hour to answer them.

 

The RHS doesnít  do multiple choice so there is no guessing and the only option is to scuff about in your memory to locate and organise the vast amount of information that weíve been taught. I have to say that, although the answers to the short questions were necessarily short, trying to access such a wide range of information at short notice isnít particularly easy.

 

Subject areas for the short questions covered plant structure and processes, cultural practices, weeds, pests, diseases, greenhouse growing and shrubs for dry shade.

 

"...How much sense I made is anyoneís guess, but I did at least managed to keep writing for all but the last five minutes."

A 15 minute break was followed by the second paper, also an hour, where we chose two questions from five. I chose to write about fruit tree cultivation techniques and the establishment of an annuals border.

 

How much sense I made is anyoneís guess, but I did at least managed to keep writing for all but the last five minutes, which Iíd set aside for checking over the answers. Weíll find out how we got on this coming week. I swing between feeling fairly confident to wondering if Iím about to be exposed as a complete idiot.

 

After the trials of the morning, a small group of us went out for a longer walk than usual after lunch. We wanted to see Normanbyís Christmas Garden, where the snowdrops are just coming into full bloom. Drifts of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) have been planted under the trees, along with patches of little pink Cyclamen coum and yellow Eranthis hyemalis. The green spikes of Daffodils are just starting to show, too, so it will be worth several more visits to see the winter and early spring colour developing.

 

One of the pleasant asides of studying at Normanby Hall is the drive there and back. Although itís near Scunthorpe, the hall itself is in a rural location and far enough away from the town that you wouldnít know itís there. When I first started the course, I didnít know the back route and went via Scunthorpe, alongside the steelworks and generally through heavy traffic.

 

Then it occurred to me, when Iíd had enough of it and finally had a good look at a map, that it would be infinitely better to go along Ermine Street instead, through rural farmland on quiet, narrow country roads.

"...Better still are the glorious orange and purple sunsets above frosty fields."

Ermine Street is an old Roman road that once ran from London to York. It cuts across almost entirely flat land so your view is largely made up of a vast area of sky, except for a wold in the distance. There are mornings when the fine mist is still floating above the fields and the land seems to retreat before you in layers of greenish-grey, gradually paling as it fades.

 

Better still are the glorious orange and purple sunsets above frosty fields. Iíve learned now to keep the camera on the seat next to me for these moments. Nothing does justice to the sight of the real thing but recording such a beautiful vision helps to keep it in mind.

 

"The ground was hard and frosty and the air was icy cold but the whole sky was on fire"

There was one of these magnificent sunsets a few weeks ago and I stopped the car to get out and marvel at it. The ground was hard and frosty and the air was icy cold but the whole sky was on fire, with the few clouds gleaming in burnished gold.

 

As I stood there marvelling, unbecomingly slack-jawed, I heard the sound of faint honking and looked up to see a flock of hundreds of geese flying high above me, headed into the setting sun. It was a perfect moment.

 

© Copyright Miranda Hodgson 2005

 

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