January is a difficult month for gardeners. Conditions outdoors are always a bit too cold and claggy for comfort and if you do get a chance to plant anything, there’s a strong likelihood the poor thing will succumb to a nasty case of claysoilitus. Many a plant has simply turned up its toes in my wet, heavy sod, never to be seen again.
So I’m always a bit relieved to see the snowdrops return. Mine do look a bit puny at the moment compared to the startling open garden displays you can visit. Attending a National Garden Scheme press event this morning I was reminded that some 100 gardens are open in February as part of its annual Snowdrop Festival. While it’s always impressive to see these enormous drifts of Galanthus nivalis, smaller gardens tend to reveal a more intimate collection of special rare and favourite ones, and cheerful plant combinations with winter aconites, ophiopogon or crocuses.
We used to take Mum on an annual pilgrimage to Benington Lordship to see them, but she’s a bit too frail nowadays. Nine hours in A&E didn’t really help last week, but like the snowdrops, she’s actually a lot more robust than she looks. She’ll be 89 in March.
And on the subject of heavy clay… back when I was editing Garden Answers magazine, we found readers would get quite competitive about how bad their clay was. It was a strange form of one-upmanship a bit like a Monty Python sketch.
– “You think your clay is bad, well my soil is actually blue!”
– “Blue? You’re so lucky! I dream of blue soil. Mine’s slabs of slimy yellow that turns to concrete in summer!”
– “Slabs of slimy yellow concrete? You don’t know you’re born.” Etc etc
I remain convinced that the fabled ‘fine, crumbly tilth’ mentioned on the back of seed packets is only ever seen on certain BBC television gardening programmes, and the product of a whole team of work experience youngsters keen to make an impression on TV producers.
No-dig? No way!