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May 2010

We’ve now entered the month of May in the fair land of Sweden. Think of all that can happen! Only a few short weeks ago, the snow lay thick in the garden and I was pondering over all the damage, all the bushes and trees that had been injured, but the fact is that, in spite of everything, we managed to get through the harsh winter pretty well

In Sweden, the month of May is a time for celebrations — for weddings and student parties. We light bonfires on Walpurgis Night on the first of the month – burning up the old and welcoming in the spring, and it’s just as wonderful every year. People feel revitalized. And in the garden, it’s very clear that things are beginning to happen, and at a breakneck pace.

May is also a month of expectations: shoots are sprouting forth, buds are in bloom, trees are standing and waiting to go into bloom. No trees are in bloom just yet, but it will happen soon. Now, at the beginning of May, the heady scents of the Carnegie hyacinths are beginning to fill the garden. I plant them as annuals. Hyacinths are a plant I must have in the garden every year, but I don’t rely on them to come back, so I plant new ones every year, sometimes a few hundred, sometimes fewer, but at least 50-60.

The Tarda tulips began to bloom at the end of April, and are now exploding. I really want to sing the praises of Tulipa Tarda. I’ve probably said so many times before, but that doesn’t make any difference, because they are, quite simply, wonderful.

Yes, the garden is now in full swing. Things are in bloom or showing promise of things to come, and one is so grateful for the seasons to follow. It’s remarkable to see all the flowers, and everything that must be tended to and watered.

I think I’ll go up to the pond. The fish have been underneath the ice and rested throughout the long winter. It takes quite a while for the water to warm up, and only then do the fish come to life and begin to move. And that’s exactly what they’re doing now. The fishes’ neighbours in the pond, the toads, have spawned their eggs. Some of the plants in the pond are enveloped by black “shoelaces” of toad spawn. When one has had toads and frogs in the garden, their young will return year after year when they, in turn, wish to reproduce.

One thing that also reproduces in the garden – unfortunately all too well – is the Spanish forest snail (Arion lusitanicus), usually referred to in Sweden as killer snails (because they’re cannibalistic). They have vociferous appetites and, if left unchecked, can cause an enormous amount of damage in the garden.  I fear that this year we’re going to have a “bumper crop” of these unwelcome guests, because they’ve almost certainly been thriving beneath the blanket of snow. I shudder to think...

Beautiful May, we bid you welcome...yes, so much is happening, and one must really pause to consider the favours that nature grants us with greenery and fauna. The seasons follow one another. It might be difficult for people who live in other countries to understand the seasonal changes we experience here in Sweden. So much happens....

So, garden friends, things are underway. Yes?

Don’t lose hope (even when faced with an army of killer snails), live with hope and, first and foremost, don’t lose the spark, the burning ember of enthusiasm. Absolutely not. 

A Gentleman Gardener