Chronicle January 2012 | Chronicle March 2012

February 2012

Greetings to our beloved gardening friends out there in the big, wide world! Here in Tumba, Sweden, 20 kilometres to the south of Stockholm, we can finally begin to see the first signs of spring. The days are becoming perceptibly longer. Today, Sunday, 19 February, the sun came up at 07.15 and will go down at 4:50pm. That’s a considerable difference in just a few weeks.

We've just been through several bitterly cold winter weeks, and the winter isn't yet over – we’re just in the middle of it. But there are days of milder weather, too. Large parts of the garden are now covered with a thick blanket of snow, but at least now and again we’re beginning to get some temperatures above freezing.

A few first signs of spring: I can see snowdrops protruding through the snow and, here and there, crocuses are gradually beginning to show themselves. If we get a few sunny days, things will really begin to happen in the garden. Yes, we're heading towards a new year in the garden.

I was out before lunch and inspected my roses. Touch wood, it seems that thus far they've survived the cold. I think that in large part this is due to the fact that the wonderful, long autumn gave them time to mature and adapt slowly. I’ve got quite a few rambling roses that are rather sensitive to cold spells, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hope that we’ll have the opportunity to see them in all their glory come the summer.

What else is happening here in A Gentleman’s Garden? We've placed our order for bulbs from Holland and are awaiting their arrival. When that happens, I'll be fully occupied. The bulbs usually arrive at the beginning of March, and when they do get here we’ll contact all the Bulb Club members who’ve joined us in ordering bulbs from Holland.

Now, in the middle of February, it’s possible to sow some things, but this year I don't think I'll be doing a lot with seeds despite having spent lots of time browsing through catalogues. I’ll stick to planting sweet peas and various types of runner beans, but it's far too early to do so yet.

I go round the garden when I can (more or less a couple of times a day) and I’ve noticed that this year is going to be a fantastic one for rhododendron – the buds are enormous; the same can be said of some of my beloved magnolias. When I had a look in our garden shed a short while ago, I sensed that the palms and bay laurel trees are just waiting to come outdoors, but they'll have to wait a bit longer yet – it’s still too cold outside. The shed is invaluable for storing sensitive trees over the winter – and it looks like a veritable jungle inside.

In the pond, one can't see the fish now. They’ve descended to the bottom, and the pond is covered with a thick layer of ice, which in turn is covered with snow. The air pump operates throughout the winter so the fish receive the air they need, and hopefully they'll survive this winter, too.
Now, in February, I go a bit overboard in buying cut tulips for the house. One tip I'd like to share with you is to put a few ice cubes in the tulip vase every day – that way you'll extend the blooming considerably. But in my view, even when the tulips have withered and are drooping they can be extraordinarily beautiful, with sensual, almost art noveau lines.

It's not so easy to talk about gardens in the Stockholm area in the middle of February. The weather fluctuates between sun, cold, snow, grey and wet. February is a month which tries and tests us in many ways. But at the same time we’re on our way; it's like a train journey – we stop here and there, look back, reflect a little, and now we're here, and what are we going to do? It’s important to make the best of everything we have, including the spring which will soon be upon us. Admittedly, a little late (or so it feels), but it's so wonderful that the light has begun to return after the long, long dark winter. Those readers who live in other parts of the world might perhaps find it difficult to understand what it's like to live with the darkness of the Nordic region. It's not entirely uncomplicated, but it's a question of doing the best one can. Living with hope and being optimistic –that's a good start.

All the best to all of you,

Stefan, A Gentleman Gardener