Something has to give.
Progress on the garden over the last few months has been so pleasing that when lockdown ended I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that pace, whilst I simultaneously attempted to add in a social life on catch-up, house renovations, client meetings and volunteer work. And it turns out that can’t quite be done!
Not only that, but May was a peculiar month in the garden. For the first three weeks it rained non-stop (yes, that is unusual, even for England) and barely got into double figure temperatures, so the garden was at a standstill. Just not enough warmth for anything to grow. Well, anything apart from the weeds, of course. May was the new April; everything literally a month behind last year.
Then, for the last week in May, temperatures suddenly shot up. It was as if the whole of May was squeezed into one week, with damp soils all round and warm, warm sunshine. The garden was on steroids. And I needed them to try and keep up!
But with three days on the trot too full of other commitments to do any gardening at all, last night I finally walked around the garden for an appraisal of the ‘estate’. Oh. Ah. Hmmm.
It’s gone. Gone for the year. That point when you realise that actually, no, you can’t work faster than nature. Not across four acres. Maybe one day, I will, but not when the basics are still being worked upon in many little corners.
And it’s quite a relief. The realisation that it’s OK – because there is no other way – for things to not be quite perfect. That in some areas the sticky weed will go to seed and that’s just how it is. It’s a bit like being unlocked all over again. Liberation has arrived!
It feels so fun; now I can garden wherever the mood takes me. I no longer have to be a slave to the next urgent thing. I can just progress whatever I feel like. The rest can wait until next year. And my blog can finally resume! What will be, will be.
So, what have been the highlights of May?
Having Mum and Dad over was a really special thing. We’ve both really missed them popping over for dinner. And having not seen the garden for a while, both observed quite significant change. Mum admiring the neat edges and – at last! – a bit more colour to the borders. She has given me so many little divisions and self-seeded plantlets from her smallish garden and couldn’t get over how they have now filled huge expanses of a four-acre version.
And even Dad, not enormously moved by herbaceous borders, put in a good word. Dad is the lawn man at home. And I wasn’t so sure he would be a big fan of our ‘No Mow May’ meadows. Yet even he could see that despite the reduced levels of mowing, the neat pathways through and improved quality of the lawns we have kept, meant that overall, the effect was much more cared for.
Still, aged 46, it’s lovely to get parental approval!
There has also been much parental activity amongst the wildlife this month. On 16 May, Darylena was looking the fattest we’d ever seen her.
Comparing her to her daughter, who will likely conceive for the first time this summer, it was very clear there was some baby growing activity going on.
We didn’t see Darylena for six days after that, but the next time she appeared, she was distinctly slimmer. The Darylettas were hidden away in the woodland; Darylena had come out to feed. We can’t wait to see the little spotted babes. It was the 19th of June that they first ventured into the main garden last year, so fingers crossed, we won’t have too long to wait. I’ll stay out of the now very shady woodland in the meantime, to ensure they feel safe.
We now have what feels like three generations of roe deer living here, as well as two muntjacs. It’s not really three, but the grazing of the trees and shrubs to exactly 95cm from the ground is way more pronounced than ever before, making it feel as though we are home to many more.
There is Daryl the elder, with his three-point antlers, father to Darylena’s new babies, we assume. And their daughter from last year still lives here, although the son has fled to pastures new. We’ve not had two separate litters live in the garden at the same time before and wonder if the areas around here are more heavily populated with deer, making it harder for the youngsters to find their own patch.
Daryl and Darylena seem to accept 2020 Daryletta being here, but Daryl is still chasing her boyfriend, Little Daryl, off over the cattle grid on an almost daily basis. Little Daryl is remarkably persistent, and undeterred by Daryl’s annoyance at his presence. Youthful confidence allowing him to sit by the house sunning himself on occasion!
But the orchard has remained deer-free over the springtime, and the difference is incredible. The lilacs I planted in 2018 have leaves on them for the very first time! And the cow parsley around the trees that has survived brings a really romantic feel.
The early, persistent rain has done wonders for the veggie garden and we are going to pick our first lettuce of the season for lunch this weekend. The wildflower meadow has also grown much more lush than during the very dry 2020, although the late daffodils have a definite windswept look about them.
The pond now looks as though it’s been there a thousand years. I attempted to do battle with the bulrushes earlier this year, but they were having none of it, having firmly superglued themselves to the liner.
It’s magical to see early morning mist on the pond and such established vegetation, but I do wonder quite how I’m going to keep it under control. I may need a visit from the wonderful Pete the Pond, I suspect.
The pink ragged-robin, which so loves damp soil, has really thrived this year and even Sammy the snail seems to be enjoying his view from the top of the reeds. I’m sure he’s terrestrial and can’t imagine quite how he got there.
But as I try to catch my breath from these busy, busy few weeks, I will allow myself to slow down a little, and just stop and marvel at Sammy on his reed and the intensity of green growth all around us.
I will stop trying to exert control over every single square inch of our patch. Isn’t that how the surprises and wonder of nature are allowed to show up, after all?