After months of seed sowing, pricking out, potting on and tucking tender plants under fleece on the regular cold spring nights, we are reaping the rewards this June. Every plant possible is now planted out, staked and fingers crossed that it will thrive to flower with generous display.
I adore June. Midsummer’s night has always been a special magical evening but I do feel a bitter sweet arrival at peak flower. It’s like the Christmas of floriculture. I’ve decided. I like the anticipation and the preparation best!
In the past, I think I missed the memo. I felt a need to strive towards a finish line or point in time when the garden feels ‘done’. I’ve sighed and listed the tasks ‘the compost heap needs turning, that bed needs clearing, those need planting’, like gardening was another chore! I missed the entire point. Of course we want to have lots of flowers to cut and sell but so long as I keep sowing and growing each week, following the plan, we will have flowers. But with the cyclical nature of gardening, nothing is ever finished. If I think about it, I am not sure I ever want the garden to be finished! The goal might be to cut and arrange flowers but it is really won in the little moments every day.
When visitors come to the garden for their tours or experiences, enjoying the space, cutting, arranging or gardening, they comment on how the place feels; the curious atmosphere that is created. The enjoyment of very simple tasks that I might take for granted every day. Of course they never seem to realise how much their own presence in the gardens contributes to that energy.
And this energy is captured in the proverbial jug of flowers on the kitchen table. In June the vessel with be full of colourful blousy stem length from delphinium, Irises, larkspur, foxtail lilies, cornflowers and poppies. But those flowers are more than the sum of their growth and cut, taken in to the home. They represent compounded effort, from time outside, care of the soil, nurture of seeds and seedlings. Mistakes rarely matter or are remembered. The year spins around so fast that we quickly get another opportunity to rectify those errors and make some more. That knowledge and rich experience. It really is priceless. That’s why those great gardeners past and present have an attractive wisdom and stillness about them. They know all this.
Rather than berate ourselves for not quite achieving that utterly unobtainable Chelsea show garden look, I firmly believe the achievement is in the pleasure of simply gardening. And that is what June is really about to me. We are midpoint of the year, the summer high before days begin to almost indeterminably shorten. It is where we longed to be in the darker winter months and hoped for in March as we sowed seeds with hopeful goodwill. For now, there is little to do bar deeply water once a week, a monthly spray of our homemade comfrey tea foliar feed, hoe on bright days and hide in the greenhouse on wet days. And of course cut the flowers. This month I promise to myself to remember all this and enjoy it very much. I might even cut some flowers for our table too.
This column was published in Cambridge Edition June 2021