Due to the long, long winter, spring came late here and the last daffodils have only just gone over mid-May. Looking at pictures of the garden this time a few years ago, it was much greener and fuller.
But given our slender means, we are happy for summer to slide in slowly as we spend 5-8.30pm most days now on the land, weeding, sowing, dividing and planting. The legend that is Mr James Herd has been back rerouting the front Farmhouse Garden pathways and retaining walls, creating a rather more formal and rather more massive border than before - about 100 sq metres - almost all filled with propagated plants from existing stock. I'm trying very hard to minimise maintenance all over the garden, using more shrubs where I can and mulching like it's going out of style, using old chipped wood (almost free but ugly) and spent mushroom compost (good looks don't come cheap). A short-term Japanese intern, Mi, has gamely saved the day by planting the orchard hedge with the already in leaf hawthorn James donated to us - it seemed a terrible shame not to get a season ahead with the plan but the scale of the challenge had beaten me and I had resigned myself to postponing it. As long as we water the plants well we can hope it will thrive.
Vegetables begun in the polytunnel and now planted out include pak choi (about to bolt due to too long in the trays I fear), broad beans 'The Sutton Dwarf' (no staking apparently), and spinach 'Bordeaux'. Verdant Leaf beet 'Oriol' has been extraordinarily hardy, the only vegetable to survive the winter's snow and hard, hard frost and still going strong. French shallots (first in in March) are doing well and spring onions and Chinese radish are both showing now.
After an incredibly harsh March with several weeks under more than a feet of snow, much of the garden is showing wear and tear bordering on carnage: brown eucalyptus leaves, singed ceonothus, crocus (those that survived the rodents) prostrate and sodden after days of torrential rain.
However - like all gardens - on closer inspection there is much to celebrate: Some other crocus - later ones- are creamy and fresh amongst the vivid pink heathers (Vivelli & March Seedling), caltha palustris (white form) is peeping out, semiaquilegia and sedum are showing greyish knobs of growth, and in the polytunnel everything is leafy and my beertraps are full of baby slugs. Elsewhere in the Lakes the tourist-magnets, the daffodils, are beginning to show but mine - newly planted narcissi 'February Gold' on the whole - are ignoring their named destiny as yet.