It seems that Mother Nature has decided we'll need to practice patience and wait a wee bit longer for spring to burst forth. I confess I'm far from patient but it does mean the opportunity for me to indulge in another favourite pastime of mine – reading next to the warmth of a roaring fire. Ah yes, dear readers, of course those books are all about gardening.
I've been reading all about cottage gardens recently. What I love about them is their mix of the practical with the very beautiful. There was nothing romantic about having to grow enough crops to feed yourself and your family but even with that necessity, it didn't stop those gardeners growing flowers for the local village show.
Often the gardens had a small orchard with apples, pears, plums and quince. Herbs would be grown in pots close to the house for easy access from the kitchen. Another area would be given over to vegetables and whatever space that was left would be filled with flowers, more often than not those self seeders that would require little effort or cost in purchasing seed.
Another topic that has loomed large in the headlines recently has been plastic and what appears to be compelling and damning environmental evidence against what was once deemed an innovation.
So rather than look on, I've decided to take some action inspired by those cottage gardeners of old. I've often thought that buying herbs in plastic pots wrapped in another layer of plastic is far from sensible, so this year I'm going to attempt to be herb self-sufficient and grow all of my own. I've already established a couple of patches of flat leaved parsley. It does require a trip behind the garage which ordinarily is a nice walk but in the cold winter is far less appealing. So I'm going to start some new plants and a herb growing patch nearer the house.
The way I started my current herb collection was to focus on growing the ones I used most in cooking. I grow bay, chives, mint, dill, oregano, thyme and rosemary all of which I use, but what I really need to grow is coriander, sage and tarragon. They all need more sun and more free draining soil, frankly a bit more effort on my clay soil. So, I'm going to take a leaf out of the cottage gardener's book and grow them next to my front door, a south facing sheltered space, in gritty free draining soil that they'll do well in. Frankly there is nothing so disheartening than going to all the effort to plant things only to have them sulk and ultimately perish.
Then I'll be able to make my own 'smudge sticks' by tying bundles of herbs together with string. When they're dry I can light them to cleanse a space. I'd be delighted if a few neighbours joined me in becoming herb self-sufficient – or perhaps you already are?
Read more about Kathryn's wild garden style floristry here