Common Ground – May

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“Come, gentle spring! ethereal mildness! come.”

James Thomson

What a cold dreary spring we have had this year. I don’t think I have ever seen so much snow and ice or felt so much cold in April.

My favourite flowers of early spring, the snowdrops, appeared a couple of weeks later than usual. They get high marks for toughness. This spring they have been snowed on several times and endured a whole weekend of being bombarded with freezing rain.

Snowdrops are the only flowers I divide and move around while they’re still flowering. I like them in a natural setting just like in all those English gardening books. They’re thriving here under the trees close to the house. And every year there are a few more. What more could you ask for in a spring flower?

By early April last year I had already planted snow peas in the vegetable garden. There was no chance of that this year. And I could only laugh at the instructions on the sweet peas that said to plant on the first of April. There was still   snow on the gardens through most of April.

I missed the much anticipated garden show in Peterborough in April since it coincided with the ice storm weekend. I didn’t need anything really but it’s enjoyable to have a look around. Oh well, the perpetual refrain of the gardener is that next year will be better.

I am hoping that the asparagus I bought there last year (purple tipped Millennium) will do well here. It will take a few years to settle in and get established. Asparagus cultivation is not for those who desire instant gratification.

In the meantime, there is my regular no name asparagus to look forward to. Haunting the asparagus patch and willing it to grow is one of my rites of spring.

“Half an hour from the garden to the table is the right rule— and a lavish supply of new grass butter to drip from it like molten gold.” This is from Peter McArthur’s A Song of Asparagus. I was happy to discover this tribute to one of spring’s first garden treats.

My favourite McArthur quote, though, is about the kitchen wood stove: “Of all the creatures reared in captivity, a kitchen stove is about the hungriest.” The old Findlay that is the heart of my kitchen has been very hungry throughout the unexpectedly cold and snowy days of April.

I will remember the spring of 2018 for having had to put ice grippers on my boots to get to the bird feeder. And I will remember the poor robins sitting on ice covered branches.

I have no idea how the late cold spring will play out or how it will affect the (shortened) growing season. Onward to May, anyway, and the spring flowers and warm days that I’m sure are coming.

By Jill Williams

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