FIRST find your eight packets of free Daily Telegraph spring bulbs that came last October and have been on the kitchen windowsill ever since. Read the instructions carefully. Number 1: WARNING! PLANT WITHIN 10 DAYS OF RECEIPT. They’ve started to sprout quite vigorously so assume they’re still alive and get planting anyway. Instruction 2: SOAK FOR 24 HOURS PRIOR TO PLANTING. In 24 hours I won’t be in the mood and it will be raining.
Ian, having dug up last year’s fine crop of dead cabbages from the vegetable patch, gathers his onions and seed potatoes ready for a self-sufficient summer, as promised in the colour supplements. “Have we got any manure?” Hmm – not that I’m aware of. “Damn. I need it for these ****** potatoes!” We listen for a passing horse: nothing. The onion packet, meanwhile, warns that under no circumstances must they be planted in or near soil that’s had manure on it in the past 12 months. “Oh – that’s a relief,” says Ian. Is it?
And how have I got to 61 without knowing what a geranium is? On one level, of course, I do: that is, I recognise one when I see one – usually. But are they annuals or perennials? Hardy or half-hardy or just not hardy at all? Ian finds the Reader’s Digest gardening book. “What kind is it? Some are perennials and some aren’t,” he says, leafing through (how have both of us got to 61 without knowing this vital information?) By this time I’ve thrown away the little plastic tab that had been in the pot with last year’s dead plant, so decide to ditch the plant as well and start again.
Except I’ve lost the trowel and the gardening fork I’ve had for 10 years and have to make do with a metal egg-poacher and a tablespoon to dig the holes.
The people next door live in Suffolk so how come they have several flourishing crops of crocuses and dwarf iris, all perfectly laid out in the tubs outside their front door?
Still, it’s been a satisfying day: the first that’s felt like spring and sunny enough to entice me into the garden. Now all I have to do is see what happens to those bulbs. It could be a long wait. Spring 2010 maybe?