|Tickled soil, tickler, and wood sorrel|
The mulching and the heavy pruning done, the garden is at a stage where I can spend this time tweaking things, doing a passable impression of someone to whom a ruthless sense of tidiness is entirely natural. And so I patrol the borders and the lawn, tutting over twigs of birch and eucalyptus and every last fallen leaf that has yet to make it to the composting area, fingertip weeding between the lavenders and even indulging in a spot of soil tickling. As to the last of these, I know I shouldn’t, but old habits die hard, the clients like the look of it, the weeds love it, and my companiable robin friend is in seventh heaven and getting rather fat on it. Everyone’s happy, and no-one has yet berated me for unnecessarily releasing a pathetic amount of additional carbon to the atmosphere – I have a border fork in my hand to deal with such ridiculousness should they try. In all seriousness, it does actually help to control the colony of creeping wood sorrel (Sleeping Beauty or Oxalis corniculata var. atropurpurea) that would otherwise run riot through this bed. Often thought of as an annual, it’s clearly not a problem in February, but as roots and straggly stems do persist throughout the winter I tend to think of it as perennial. Rather a pretty plant, with its deep bronzed leaves and yellow flowers, but something of a tiny thug nonetheless, requiring a firm hand.
I’m not blind to the fact that there’s an element of procrastination in all this micro-faffing and beautification. There are other, less immediately obvious tasks which need seeing to – for example, the huge amount of woodchip churned in with soil that the tree surgeons have left me, all of which needs barrowing away from an area we want to replant (there’s enough honey fungus in this garden without us making a giant crater-shaped buffet for it). But you have to make the most of the stillness at this time of year. Not just the stillness of the weather (naturally, you always have to make the most of a good gardening weather in winter), but this apparent pause in activity that occurs, maybe lasting no longer than a few days, as winter transitions into spring. The mornings are getting lighter, and in a matter of weeks it will kick off and every gardener will be dashing about like a whirlwind blur with a barrow on the front. Perhaps you’ll pardon me if I take full advantage of the lull, and enjoy a quiet tickling while I may.