Back to Reality: April Showers and Cowslips

Don’t get me wrong: I love whizzing off and filming with Time Team, but I also have a life of my own and not just as an archaeologist – or indeed, a farmer. No, the other great interest in my life is, and has always been, gardening: it keeps me sane; it keeps me rooted in reality. And the reality of 2012 is the drought. I get irritated with the tabloids (who doesn’t?) who are already starting to bleat that the hosepipe ban was unnecessary. It’s rather like those climate-change deny-ers who treat a snowstorm as evidence that global warming isn’t happening. One feels like screaming into their ears (but sadly there’s nothing inside their skulls) that climate isn’t the same as weather. But why bother?

Anyhow, the weather is as last reverting to normal. Over the past week we’ve recorded over an inch of rain and the pond has about a foot of water in it. And that’s enough for the swallows, who have just started to return, to use for the mud and sticks mixture (a sort of micro-wattle-and-daub) they need for their nests.

Close up of the cowslips

Close up of the cowslips (Primula veris)

The rain has come in the nick of time for the other inhabitants of the garden. The dozen or so cowslips which we planted back in 1993 have reproduced rapidly over the years and there are now tens of thousands of them.

cowslips in orchard

Cowslips in the orchard

They look particularly good in our small orchard, especially on a bit of ground that was disturbed about ten years ago, when I used it as a temporary log stack. They’re also out in the main hay meadow, where they provide a wonderful backdrop for the elegant snakes head fritillaries. Sadly these aren’t as tall as normal after the dry summer and late spring of 2011. Again, I planted 200 back in 1995 and there must be over 10,000 there now. Sadly too, pheasants love to peck off their flower buds, because they taste sweet.

Cowslips with a snakes head fritillary

Cowslips with a snakes head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)

We also grow a large yellow skunk cabbage or bog arum in one of two soak-aways that takes rain from off the barn roof. It’s a native of North America, so is hardy in Britain. This year it’s looking a bit battered after it got caught by that late hard frost, but I like it all the same and I adore its skunk-like scent (or stink). Incidentally, I don’t like pretty-pretty garden pictures: they lack reality. If a plant got frosted, then why hide it? To my eye there’s beauty in nature – all nature. The same goes, I suppose, for people – which is another reason why I despise and detest celebrity culture: real people are gloriously imperfect. For me, those air-brushed tabloid slebs are just a gnat’s hair away from the Aryan ‘perfection’ sought by Adolf Hitler and his vile cronies.  No, like Oliver Cromwell, I’d rather all human beings could be seen ‘warts and all’…

bog arum

A slightly frosted bog arum (Lysichiton americanus)

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