However. Rather than relaxing over the winter break, I've been busily been playing catch up in garden and home. Tulips have been planted in my parent's garden over christmas so my mum will have some spring colour to look forward to. She can't garden at all now but still takes an interest so I've been popping perennials and bulbs in when I visit.
Over a hundred tulips have also gone into the gardens here at York Rise. Our newly appointed Housing Officer likes everything in the garden to be neat and orderly. On her first visit, she had to be dissuaded from having the veg patch fruit trees chopped back into a nice neat shapes but our powers of persuasion didn't extend to the London Planes outside my window which are now birdless, ugly stumps and another mature, ivy clad tree (home to many little birds) has been felled because it leaned. For some reason she reminds me of Dolores Umbrage in the Harry Potter books. Having safeguarded my fruit trees, I still feel the need to divert her attention and have started a plan of floral distraction with tulips, polyanthus, violas and bellis perennis. And, in due course, I'll also be planting my lettuces out in neat, but colourful, rows!
I don't have a 'garden shed' here so, falling in with the new regime, I've spent a few days moving piles of spare pots, cloches, netting, chicken manure, trug tubs and bags of compost up to the caretaker's hut at the opposite end of the flats … not exactly handy having to walk 150 metres to get a pot but, strangely, I'm rather enjoying the enforced tidiness.
College work continues apace - 5 garden elevations done before the break and another 2 garden designs to complete within the next few weeks … and an exam on garden history sometime in the coming weeks.
The seed box will be next - I'm watching Alys Fowler's 'Edible Garden' on YouTube and reading Charles Dowding's 'A Salad for all Seasons' to set the mood. Last year I didn't grow as much as I wanted to but a quick peek backwards reminds me that there were more than a few good bits of the good gardening life to gladden the heart and eyes:
In January we had a new apple tree, gifted from the London Orchard Project. This made our 9th fruit tree! The 'Core Blimey' apple has been specially bred to thrive in urban conditions and seems to have done well, despite the stakes and ties being removed by pranksters. (They'll have to be replaced as trees should be staked for the first 3 years.) It was planted into a long stretch of grass where several mature trees had previously stood - just before the snow descended.
February gave me the new experience of visting the London RHS shows where I met suppliers and brought home a tiny and very beautiful Chilean Guava which, sadly, did not make it through the year.
March, my birth month, shines out in my memory for the fabulous day out to Dixter where I met a few of my fellow garden bloggers. A deeply rewarding day on account of both the gardens and the people - bloggers and Dixter staff alike. We were lucky with the weather too, as snow and ice were lingering just 3 days beforehand but it was bright and clear for the trip. Earlier in the month, I'd been to Potato Day at the Garden Museum in Lambeth - another first that I'll be revisiting this year.
By the end of April, blossom had started to appear on the fruit trees, potatoes were planted and the first of my windowsill salad leaves were ready to be harvested. There was a quiet optimism that the endless weeks of winter might finally be over.
May! To me, this is always the month when the garden properly gets going - seeds sprout, corn and beans are planted out. This year, the fruit trees were smothered in blossom and, of course, there was the Centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show. Probably my favourite month of last year.
By July, the garden was filling with flowers, fruit and veg… and so many strawberries, I had to make jam. This is the moment when I always want more and regret not being more organised around sowing and planting earlier in the year … now, there's a lesson to be learned.
August and September, although starting the slow decline into Autumn, brought me ripe tomatoes, tall and small sunflowers, corn, raspberries to the point of overkill, crisp Braeburn apples; there were Cape Gooseberries (physalis) until the plant got trampled by persons unknown. I also returned to college to continue with the second year of the garden design course, this year concentrating on plants. Bliss!
October was the month a wallaby appeared in our playground, causing huge excitement and media interest. In the garden, the tomato fest finally drew to a close and the garden succumbed to an onslaught of nasturtium triffids and huge herbs. I also found the time to visit the RHS Harvest Festival in Westminster where I marvelled at the perfection of giant show veg and plates of perfect fruit (something to aspire to!) and an end of season trip back to Great Dixter as an optional trip for my college studies. Inevitable comparisons were made with the gardens in spring; next year I must try and visit in the middle of the season as well!
Mild weather continued into November encouraging borage and cerinthe seeds to grow alongside the nasturtiums. A globe artichoke, nurtured from a seed, had grown too so I'm expecting great things from that plant next year and, after clearing the tomato plants, I rediscovered the perpetual rhubarb, grown from seed in early 2012 and took a few stems to try - delicious! I also foraged for Japanese quince and learnt to make quince jelly and membrillo from the fruits.
And finally, into December, when a ground frost in the second week finally did for most of the nasturtiums and the big clear up and chop back began, tulips were planted, strawberry plants moved to another bed, tender herbs snuggled up for winter. And, after watching an Into Gardens video of Dawn Isaac from Little Green Fingers potting up her bulbs, I hastily ordered some paperwhite narcissus having discovered how easy they are to grow - something to look forward to in a few weeks!
And so, here we are. 2014. Somehow, despite omissions, 2013 was still a good year but, this year, I'm definitely putting squash, courgettes, calendula and carrots back into the veg beds. At least, that's the plan, but I've a feeling that a new batch of seed catalogues may tempt me into pastures new …
My apologies for the late posting of this look back over the year - it's taken an unbelievably long time to go through all my photos - the upshot of that, though, is that I've finally got round to updating the images in my blog banner - new for 2014!