When the sunshine arrives, I will spoon gooseberry fool into my mouth like an idiot, with a dreamy look of gormless pleasure on my face. I shall think about making redcurrant jelly. The summer sweetness is only possible if I get off my ass right now, beard the spiders in the potting shed and fight them for the secateurs, ignore the rain sluicing off the roof and trudge through the mud to do some essential pruning. If left too long I will look at the insignificant powder coloured flowers on the fruit bushes in April and think that I’ve missed my chance, yet again.
Ribes rubrum (red currant) pruned, tied & fertilised
The wall trained redcurrants are first for some discipline. I start by removing damaged or dead wood and then cut all side shoots back to two buds from the main stem. All of the branch tips are shortened by one quarter. After the dust has settled, everything that remains is tied onto the supports which are firmly anchored into solid brickwork. The roots get a scattering of fish blood and bone meal. That’s it. Nothing else to do but read up on recipes for conserves. Gooseberries get exactly the same pruning treatment.
Corylus contorta (corkscrew hazel) catkins
The only real effort expended was to drill into the wall, hammer in rawlplugs and sink vine eyes. I had to ransack Attila’s shed for the necessary equipment; he keeps the electric drill on a shelf too high for my easy access and nails, screws and other attachments are stored in many and varied containers distributed randomly about the place. Despite my partner’s total and utter disregard for order or even common sense, I found the tools that I needed. I made neatly measured holes, inserted the vine eyes and wired them horizontally, then fanned bamboo canes in a “V” shape, attached to the lines with more wire. I tied the main stems of the redcurrant onto the canes with soft string. I didn’t want to find the entire edifice had collapsed under the weight of the plant, so I asked Attila to check my workings. Initially he was complementary but after he did a little further research, there followed several unpleasant accusations about the state in which I left his work space, some aspersions cast upon my mental stability, a few terse recriminations and a little defensive bitching. In return for this and the modest purchase price of one plant, I get some leafy clothing for a dry, sunny wall and a glorious waterfall of luminous scarlet berries which remains bright and colourful for months.
Acacia dealbata (mimosa) flowering in the conservatory
Of course, since I frequently forget the early season haircut, my redcurrants get along without me very well. In return for my dereliction of duty, I get a crop of several kilograms every year. I sprinkle a few berries over the odd leafy salad and very occasionally decorate a cake or dessert with a vivid sprig of shining crimson. The jelly requires boiling, straining and bottling, to serve it as a condiment for goose, venison or lamb. Since we eat fish but no meat, that seems like a lot of hard work for nothing. I’m not daft.