Monday 1 April 2024

Hooh mumma - those Vernal Surges are strong!


April 1st and all my seeds are in. Feels good. I can now focus wholeheartedly on the much less attractive task of Spring Cleaning.

My gaff has no foundations, so I share it with a plethora of leggybugs and wrigglesomes who crawl up from below and colonise my books; photo frames; everything.

I’m something of a swallow in this gaff. During the Winter months I sleep in what will be my guest quarters, once the cleaning and migration have taken place. It’s a separate little dingly dell of a room, but its walls are thick and it’s warmer.

The bedrooms in the main place are prone to mould, flooding, gordknowswhat, so I steer well clear and keep the dehumidifiers going 24/7.

Anyway, by the time I head to London in mid-May the place will be as spotless as I can make it, and I will be back in the summer bedroom, which means I can once again enjoy the company of houseguests.

Something strange and wonderful comes over me around the Vernal Equinox. I’m not sure if those words should be capitalised, but I do it because to me they are That Important.

As soon as the days become longer than the nights, the nurturer in me experiences an explosive surge of growing energy.

Plants are like us mammals: they need to rest over the cold dark months.

But while we survive the Winter by stuffing our cold achy bodies with high fat foods, and drinking enough alcohol to imagine the world beyond the front door is not really miserable and hostile, plants profit from serious downtime.

So the houseplants get watered fortnightly instead of weekly, and everything outside is mulched with leaves, and left unwatered for months.

Come March 21st the Baby Bio comes out and those houseplants that like a feed get a capful in their water, which delivers an instant pick-me-up.

The aloes and bromeliads live in rough tough locations in the wild, so no feed for them, but all the pots will be given what’s called a ‘top dressing’ of an inch or two of fresh potting compost, which perks them up way more than you’d ever imagine.

Time too to snip a few babies from the Spider plant and fresh shoots from the Tradescantia, or Wandering Jew, and drop ‘em into water to see if we can make new plants.

Outside, I remove the leafy mulch off all the containers, and they too get a top dressing. I find it fascinating to see what survives the Winter.

There’s this idea of all plants being divided into annuals and perennials, either living one year or several, but given mulch and a bit of care, those terms become irrelevant.

In the gravel beds out the front of my gaff the calendula (marigold) and Californian Poppies have survived well through the Winter, and the lupins in pots have thrived too, showing new life from January onwards.

In February I pruned the orchard, a job I love ‘cos it lets this space cadet disappear into a world of his own for a few weeks.

The trees hadn’t been snipped for three years, so they needed a lot cut off, and I spent hours, days, weeks walking around them, loppers in hand, looking up at their leafless canopies, trying to design in my head a bowl shape where air could circulate and no branch would grow into another.

Throughout the dark months I fed the birdies outside, and ended up with a mountain of empty plastic birdseed tubs. Along with a load of the little plastic bowls that used to have the Centra’s fruit salad in them, those placcy tubs made their way to the potting shed.

I banged a hole or three into each container’s bottom and the tubs have become home to my lettuce and tomato seeds, with the fruit salad bowls serving as incubators for starting new babies from old seeds.

Apart from the lettuce and tomato, the only seeds I buy are bags and bags of Virginia Stock. I buy loads of them ‘cos they just love the climate here in the west of Ireland.

They will germinate and flower in a few weeks, any time from February to November, and they’re simply lovely. Cabbage white caterpillars seem to agree with me, and can demolish yards of their flowers in a few days, so if you grow ‘em, keep your eyes peeled.


I sow them at the edges of containers where they fringe with delicate beauty, and drop their seeds into cracks on the patio, where they grow out of bare stone and transform an ugly oopsy into a spot of pure delight.

Next up was buying several bags of ornamental grit and compost, and replenishing the herb garden I built last year. Most of it survived the Winter well, with the sage especially happy, but the thyme plants took a hit, so I’ve got three new ones 'growing on' in the potting shed, almost ready to join their aromatic mates.

Then there was the weeding, re-membrane laying and sowing of the bed out front on the roadside, and finally the scattering of all last years seeds onto the two areas in front of my gaff.


Right now it might look pretty sorry and messy, but hopefully it will once again transform, as it did last year.

This year’s main competitor to all new growth comes in the form of those childhood helicopters. Last Autumn I was sitting in my living room when a huge THUMP came from outside.

I went to investigate and found the entire garden blanketed by a zillion billion sycamore seeds, or helicopters as we knew them.

After doing a wee bit of research I now know that, like oak trees with their acorns, sycamores also have what they call Mast years, when given the right climatic conditions, they produce hundreds of times the seeds they normally do.

They are now taking root just everywhere, all over the beds, containers and grasses, where they almost outnumber the blades.


Bad news if you’re a horse, as chowing down on too many of those babies can make you very sick indeed. Bad news too if you’re a gardener’s back, as I’m bending over every other step to try and diminish their occupation.

Little bastards.

Maybe, but clever tree. Mast years pretty much guarantee survival of the species.

Apologies for what are possibly the most boring photos Double Vision has ever offered, but all being well we’ll be able to do a Before/After display in a few months.

Something like this, I’m thinking. 



©Charlie Adley 


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