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April 6th 2009

"Gardening is the purest of human pleasures." Francis Bacon

Monday, 6 April 2009. The days are becoming longer and spring is finally here, but already now I’m beginning to think about the autumn. If you’re really interested in making something of a garden, it’s just as well always to be one step ahead. When I wander around our garden in the evening now, at the beginning of April, I’m aware that there’ll be so much to do in the autumn. And although so much is done then — tidying up, putting away, raking, washing plant pots, etc.—  there’s still so much to do when the spring comes. Everything happens so quickly.

Think of the long winter months spent sitting lethargically, looking out and fantasising about a garden which will come to life. The days pass so slowly. But then, when the spring arrives, there’s hardly time to finish anything. The days rush by –these warm days when everything happens so quickly. Winter aconite is the first plant I think about. After that, it’s the turn of all the botanical crocuses and snow drops that I’ve been longing to see. Even the hepaticas are now beginning to put on a display, while the wood anemones are standing in wait. Think of everything you’ve been longing for, and how much there is to look forward to. It’s really crazy.

And then it seems as if they’re gone in a flash. Things go so quickly, but all the time there’s something new to look forward to. It’s a question of longing: longing for greenery, longing for flowers. Even though there are, of course, people who help put you on the right track, ultimately you’re the one who’s done everything with your own bare hands. What a feeling!

The snowdrops and winter aconite have already done their job and are gradually disappearing from the garden for this year. Their place is slowly being taken by our botanical crocuses, which are now beginning to bloom at their best. These include Prins Claus, a lovely white crocus with the outside of its petals striped with deep purple blotches. It is such a lift just to stand and admire the snowdrops, winter aconite, botanical crocuses and Dutch crocuses, all at the same time. Such a rainbow of colours – a veritable little circus. And colour in the garden is precisely what one wants after the long, dark, cold, stone-frozen winter.

In my view, it’s as well to plant a few thousand crocuses every year, just to be on the safe side, since they don’t always return. But when they do come, we’re talking about three to five flowers from each bulb. And if you plant botanical crocuses in combination with Dutch crocuses, you get an extended blooming period; where we live in the Stockholm area, it’s a question of approx. 3-4 weeks, depending on the circumstances and weather.

I always wait until the spring to cut back our perennials, since there are lots of other things to keep me busy in the autumn. But in the springtime I cut them back, let things lay where they are and decompose, and sprinkle on a bit of fertiliser.

In the pond, the fish have come to life after spending a long winter under a thick mantel of ice. But they’re not alone in the water. We’ve noticed some temporary guests in the form of at least eight toads, some of whom are busily – or should I say, slowly? – engaged in pairing; long black “threads” of toad eggs can be seen here and there in the pond.

Yes, a garden is a wonder, nature is wonderful, humankind is wonderful. It’s good to be alive. We live on hope; and what would life be without dreams? With a garden, everything is so real, there’s so much to take care of, so much to be thankful for. So much to consider. So many feelings, so much sorrow when a plant dies. But there’s always something new to plant. Never, ever, regard a garden as a finished creation. Gardening is always a creative process which demands both time and effort. What makes a garden so special is that you can put your own stamp on things.

We can reflect also over the rising and setting of the sun. Today: dawn at 06.04 and dusk at 19.41. Even if we’ll be turning back the clock in just a couple of months, we’re nevertheless heading towards lighter times. And when the sun returns, people return as well. It’s then that we crawl out of our small cottages and greet each other with a smile on our lips. Keep smiling!

Spring greetings from

A Gentleman Gardener