Garden diary – April

Writing a garden diary each month gives me a rhythm and frame. But sometimes plants unfold and live over quite different timescales.

We planted a juneberry tree – the Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Robin Hill’ – last year hoping to give us some shade from the hot summers. We won’t really see that benefit for a few years.

Through February and March I watched it gradually develop leaf buds, then little flower buds which seemed to sit dormant for weeks. Then suddenly in early April they opened – an abundance of pretty little pink blossom. Within two weeks it blew off.

This tree, which I hope will live for decades, doesn’t fit into a narrative of months, only years and days. Planted nearby are perennials that may only survive a few years, including one of the Verbena bonariensis that doesn’t seem to be coming back.

One way of looking at the garden is as a project of capital accumulation – we add to the stock. But as the Coronavirus pandemic makes patently clear, loss-aversion is a sure path to anxiety. Much better to embrace the ephemerality of the garden, whether admiring the brief show on the Amelanchier, or seeing the death of the Verbena as an opportunity to fill the gap with something new.

April is of course a happy month in the garden. We were blessed with a very sunny, warm month, ending with a few days of heavy rain.

Everything grows with vigour. Flower beds that started mostly bare with a few shoots were, by the end of the month, crowded with the spring greens and acid yellows of Euphorbia oblongata and more nascent growth from later-flowering perennials.

Bees flitted about the Broom, and an outbreak of snails threatened to strip it bare so I spent a couple of weeks picking them off early in the morning and sending them to a salty grave.

My production line of seedlings for myself and neighbours continued to grow.

The spinach and beetroot plants have grown on strongly. Peas planted direct into the soil all seemed to be eaten by some mysterious pest before they got going (no sign of slug or snail trails). But those grown on in loo rolls then planted out and protected by plastic bottles have taken root and slowly grew on. I also got given some seed potatoes by my brother in law.

Dig for Victory!

We polished off the last of 2019’s berry harvest – blackcurrents, raspberries and strawberries from the garden, blackberries from local parks – just as the new fruit started to appear. This year I’ve added a gooseberry bush, and hope to get a bigger crop from the apple, plum, cherry and pear trees I mostly grow in pots.

These trees and bushes are also now attracting more birds. Our garden is surrounded by fairly desert-like space – lawns, concrete, few trees. So birds on the whole don’t find much safety. But in April we saw the pigeons and parakeets joined by blackbirds, robins, magpies and great tits.

Here are a couple of the latter flitting about near our back door.

I’ve spent most mornings drinking a cup of tea looking out at this view. It hasn’t grown old yet.

The other great garden event of the month was the Easter Egg Hunt. Rachel loves these, and I was able to secrete eggs in the foliage, branches and pots throughout the garden.

Roll on May.

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