A few blackberry seasons ago, I used to buy Egremont Russet apples from the grocer by my school. Since then, no other fruit has reached that peak of juicy, nutty crispness. An empty patch appeared in the edible garden and when Attila asked what I wanted to grow, I had only one answer. He dredged the internet with his finding foo switched on and his dowsing antennae erect and fully functioning, finally locating a decent sapling at a fair price. I sent it into the soil with fish, blood and bone, homemade compost and a lot of hope. I’ve staked the trunk against wind rock, watered it in dry spells, weeded the immediate neighbourhood like I meant it and this year, picked three beautiful fruit.
Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus (globe artichoke, seed heads)
They say you should never try to re-visit a memory and that crossing the same river twice is an exercise in soggy trousers. I sank my teeth into the perfumed bronze skin and was sent back decades, to a blue gingham dress and short socks. The apple tasted as wonderful as I recalled, perhaps better for my own effort. Buoyed by my success, I went back out for other harvests. The courgettes were a complete failure this year, probably because I moved the hot box and the green waste within dissolved into mush at an alarming rate. The plant was left without proper sustenance and became swamped by nasturtiums. Poot, I don’t like zucchini, anyway. Rhubarb and redcurrants have been plentiful. The raspberries have been prolific as always, making my husband’s rigorous muesli edible, if not interesting.
Sorbus aucuparia (rowan in bonsai)
Seeds are setting everywhere, some well worth saving for special attention. Dierama pulcherrimum (angel’s fishing rod) seedlings look like grass and are prone to being hoicked out with no mercy. I stripped the stems and spread the produce in a tray full of compost for winter’s cold treatment. Eryngium giganteum (Miss Willmott’s ghost) needs similar stratifying but I’ve found that it germinates much better if sprinkled over a sunny border. This seems to suit them, rather than being fussed over in a cold frame which has never yielded a result for me. Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge) is scattering love children without conscience, with infants turning up in the oddest places. None of the species are easy in arrangements, since they bleed irritant sap. Pretty E. amygdaloides rubra looks wonderful in a vase if the stems are scalded but the blooms go over quickly and the capsules explode, to land on the hearth with a pitter-pat. If you sit quietly reading a book, amid the silence they sound like tiny footsteps. Not good, if you are of a nervous disposition.
Arum maculatum (lords & ladies, cuckoopint)
Birch trees sprout where they will, to be torn from their chosen bed, chopped in half, wired and the roots stuffed into bijou accommodation for bonsai. I’ve had some joy with Sorbus (rowan), since the leaves shrink down quickly, giving me a miniature specimen with good proportions. I’ve taken to scrounging around town, looking for cultivars with different coloured berries. I’ve tried to explain to my resident computer whizz, that there is a difference between orange, crimson and ruby. My excuses for grubbing around municipal car parks, rending the air with shrill cries of triumph bearing scarlet prizes aloft, are falling on stony ground.