Friday, January 6, 2012

Treading on my dreams

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven,
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)

I love this poem at any time, but the final line always runs through my mind when I'm gardening at this time of year.
I usually delay the big winter tidy-up until after Christmas, because many of the plants in my garden go on well into December, especially if the weather is mild. The snag with rummaging about in the borders at this time of year is that it is so easy to trample on the new shoots of bulbs such as snowdrops and daffodils. You have to tread carefully, or you will extinguish their dream of blooming in a couple of months' time.
It's been a busy Christmas for me, as you may have noticed from the lack of posts. Apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day, I've been at work most of the time. Coupled with that, my mother - who came to stay with us on Christmas Eve - was ill, and had to be admitted to hospital. She's fine now, I'm pleased to say, but I think both she and I are quite glad to see the back of this Christmas.
So it was with a sigh of pleasure and relief that I stepped outside this morning. It's not too cold here in London - about 9/10C (48/50F), but feeling slightly warmer in the sunshine. A great day to do some gardening.

I always wait until the cannas have been frosted before cutting back their foliage, but as soon as they go over, I am itching to hack off the shroud-like leaves and put the plants away for the rest of the winter. Mine are in pots, so they can go in the garage, which stops them getting too wet and cold.
The red banana below, however, (Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii') will not regenerate, so that's destined for the tip. If you have a greenhouse, you can overwinter them (Will Giles, at The Exotic Garden, uses the Norwich Cathedral greenhouse for his!), but I don't, so I treat them as annuals. They grow so fast in one season, I'd never be able to lift them if they got really big.

Then there's the general herbaceous detritus. This bed below, for example, is full of old crocosmia leaves. I could leave them, but they are flopping all over the evergreen plants, such as the yuccas, so they get pulled out. I could already see next year's shoots starting.

It's a very satisfying feeling, accumulating a heap of garden waste like this. I love jobs that don't involve any analysis or decision-making, just a vague attention to detail in case you cut off a finger.

Had a quick squint at the pond, above, to check that everything was all right, and that the pump was still working. The fish seemed very lively, perhaps because it was a mild sunny day.

And I found this fat little fellow, cosied up amid a cluster of crocosmia corms. This is the caterpillar of the Small White, or Cabbage White butterfly. He's a bit of a pest if you grow cabbages, so it crossed my mind that I should tread on his dreams pdq. But I don't grow cabbages, and the nasturtiums (which I'm guessing attracted his parent) never seem to suffer from caterpillar predation, so I left him to snooze in peace.