Gardener and writer Anna Pavrod about the joy of the new discovery of spring.
I can’t remember how glorious that first day of spring will be when I’ll be able to hang around in the garden all day long, not doing anything unpleasant like pruning roses, but just fiddling – weeding a little, getting attached a little, but mostly just wandering, again. fitting into the story. It’s like at a party where people suddenly show up that you haven’t seen in ages. When you meet them again, you remember why you enjoyed their company. The party equivalent is bittercress, pushing a juicy peony where it’s not needed.
By early spring, the shore rising from the yard near the house begins to move. There are a lot of small things scurrying about somewhere below, and I will admire them with time later. But at this particular moment, my gaze is directed straight at the magnificent bubbling mound of giant fennel, common cane.
It is a cousin of the culinary fennel, but much more dramatic. I first saw it in eastern Turkey, where it bursts out of the brown slopes of the hills with an abundance completely inconsistent with the environment. It starts growing ridiculously early in our garden, producing filigree branches of brilliant, reassuring greenery. Sometimes a sharp frost lays vayu on the ground. But undaunted, it simply presents more pinnate stems from the center of the cluster. It’s a great thing, and later in the spring it (and half a dozen more) provides the best possible backdrop for tulips planted randomly up the hillside.
At this time of the year, when the landscape around is still predominantly brown, greenery in the garden is especially relevant. Leaves are much more important than flowers when creating pleasing plant groups. Flowers are the icing on the cake and look good on Instagram, but the foliage provides the content, pomp and bounty you want in a garden. So after paying homage to the fennel, my gaze shifts to the polished leaves of the arum that grows near it. This Cretaceous arum, with leaves larger than those of our wild arum, but with the same attractive arrow-shaped shape. In early spring, the first folded bedspreads break through the foliage, the pale cream ones gradually opening to reveal the bright yellow spadix inside. The bedspread is the same color as the primroses that surround it.
Primroses do not release their fragrance into the air, like daphnes, for example. You must go toe to toe with the primrose, while Daphne “Jacqueline Postill” at the top of the shore recklessly diffuses fragrance throughout the garden. I’m not trying to find a word for this. I just closed my eyes and let it circle around me, listening to the rooks rattling in the valley below.
Three of my favorite herbaceous plants, Euphorbia, Taliktrum and Aconite, are unscented but favorites because they all have leaves that are every bit as important as their flowers. Euphorbia, which prevails on the shore, is large Spurge charatsias. There are quite a few of them, once, perhaps, called varieties, but now self-sowing. I am very comfortable with self-seeding because plants often have much better ideas than I do. And if some spurges turn out to be bad specimens, I can always pull them out. What I am doing.
By this time of the year, the stems that are about to bloom are bent, and the group begins to look like a flock of searching chickens. A wonderful greenish-yellow color is already showing, but they develop slowly, which is always an advantage for the plant. Below, self-seeding carpets of love in the fog. Varieties of tulips such as pink T. peccary And T. low here they always bloom first, replacing the early crocuses.
A couple of seasons ago, I fell in love with a spurge called Portuguese Velvet. It had magnificent velvety foliage and, from what I have read, a denser habit than most species. E. charatsias. But now the only leaves it has left hang limply from the tops of the bare stems. To make matters worse, new shoots do not grow from the base, which makes this tribe so useful in mixed plantings. You can usually cut off old stems that are sticking out, knowing that they will be replaced with new ones every season. Gardening friends have told me that Portuguese Velvet loves full sun and good drainage. He has both. So what is he waiting for? A sip of an old redhead?
seasonal gardener Anna Pavord, published by Phaidon, is already out
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