So to start on a positive note, we’ve seen off January and the days are definitely getting longer. They may not be getting any warmer, or any less windy and rainy, but that extra bit of daylight at the end of the day makes all the difference.
At this time of year, like most gardeners, I like to indulge in the seed catalogues – those little paper booklets of summer dreams. Just looking at the pictures of perfect, shiny vegetables (nothing like the warted, slug nibbled efforts you’ll most likely end up with, but hey) and bunches of brightly coloured flowers, can cheer you up on a blustery winters day. Apparently, it has been proven that looking at bright colours releases endorphins in the brain, and can help combat the winter blues.
So here you are:
The veg seeds usually get ordered first, but then my attention turns to flowers. So now I have ordered a range of dahlia tubers (thanks to mum for the Sarah Raven vouchers) along with seeds for new varieties of cosmos, poppies, sweetpeas and wallflowers. I also have seeds for sky-blue cornflowers, and hopefully on the plot there will be plenty of self seeding nasturtiums, citrus calendula (with luck inter-sown with wild fuchsia pink poppies – see above) and dark purple Cerinthe major. My garden at home is pretty much all shrubs, bulbs and perennials which means it kind of takes care of itself, except for a bit of gap filling here and there. But on the allotment, the cottage garden annuals are what I grow to fill any available space. Some for picking, partly to make the plot look pretty, but mainly and most importantly, to attract beneficial insects who will hoover up the aphids and pollinate the crops.
Interestingly, farmers are now being encouraged to do the same in order to cut back on pesticide use. Until now, they have been growing flowers around the edges of their fields, but experiments are now showing that intercropping with large bands of flowers is far more effective, and this can only be a good thing if you ask me. Read more here.
As well as cheering up the grey days with seed catalogues, I have also been illustrating summer flowers. These have now been put to good use on some new sheets of stickers, some new garden notebooks, a print for framing, and a greetings card. I’m also waiting for some flowery ‘thankyou’ postcards to be printed, which I will use for my personal thankyou notes that go into every order, and will also be sold in packs of 6. They should be available around Valentines day, I’ll try and do another blog posting to update you then.
Have you started sowing seeds yet? I’ve got chillies, sweetpeas and chickpeas in the propagator, and some leeks and spare peas that I grow for peashoots. In the garden my snowdrops are just starting the flower and I have lots of promising fat flower buds on my hellebores. Bulbs are popping up everywhere and little birds are busily hopping around the garden. Even my little aloe vera has decided to flower. Oh come on spring!