April showers?

Drip, drip drop little April shower
Beating a tune as you fall all around

Drip, drip drop little April shower
What can compare with your beautiful sound…

…well that would be a normal April.  This year has been the sunniest on record (according to the Met Office) and the rain that finally arrived at the end of the month fell heavily under a persistently pewter sky.  I missed the soothing patter of the April rainfall; the vibrant sheen it gives to the emerging greenery; the smell of warm damp earth; the transient beauty of the rainbows.  

Still, the sunny days gave up other unexpected pleasures: the asparagus emerged from its winter slumber two weeks early, the seeds nestled into freshly composted trays germinating quickly and all around me the garden and hedgerows hinted at the promise of summer to come.

The wild plum and hawthorn brought the hedgerows to life as their tightly furled buds gave way to a frothy white haze.  A vision repeated in the pink tinged blossom on my apple trees, sweetly scented and attracting the early bees.

Bramley Apple Blossom

Throughout the garden an increasing array of flowers added depth and variety to the muted palette of early spring as flamboyant candy coloured tulips vied with the subtle sapphire of humble forget me nots for my attention.  Blushing Camelia blooms nestled amid glossy leaves, fiery marigolds peeked from between the delphinium and lupin canopies.  In the woods anemone, celandine and bluebells thronged, while the mighty horse chestnut put forth creamy panicles amid palmate leaves.

Just as the variety of flora visibly increases at this time of year so does the range of birdlife as our migratory birds complete their return journeys from their winter homes, joining the stalwarts of our gardens in search of safe nesting sites to rear their chicks.  The green woodpeckers and pied wagtails take turns jabbing at the lawn in search of insects, the goldfinches nip at the dandelion heads (which are sadly abundant in my lawn at the moment!) and all the while the robin watches patiently as I weed, to see if the turned soil will reveal a worm for his dinner.  Soon the swallows will be returning to swoop low in late afternoon and feast on the burgeoning insect life.

It is easy to be optimistic about the weather as, even in the rain, it hasn’t been cold.  But I’m a Yorkshire Lass by birth and so I’ll bide my time with my seedlings and heed my Grandfather’s advice to “Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May be out”.  Although in this respect a “clout” is a layer of warm cloth or clothing and there is some dispute as to whether the “May” referenced is the May flower (Hawthorn) or the month itself.  I interpret it, as does many a gardener, as advice to keep my plants warm until the end of the month.  So, I’ll start hardening them off from the middle of May and plant them out Spring Bank Holiday weekend. 

In the meantime, they are all developing well and soon enough will move to their permanent homes.  In the borders there will be snapdragons, cosmos, sunflowers, and dahlias to complement the showy perennials.  In the greenhouse there will be tomatoes (Gardeners Delight & Amateur), aubergines, cucumbers, sweet peppers, and jalapenos.

As this is only my second year having a greenhouse I may have tended to excess here!  I am more experienced with the raised beds and alongside the gooseberries, blackcurrants, rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, onions, and asparagus already there I will add chantenay carrots, mange tout, dwarf green beans, courgettes, and a variety of salad leaves. 

Time to start thinking of recipes to make the most of the harvest.  I’ve made 4 litres of rhubarb gin already and there are some of my other favourite rhubarb recipes on the site too.  So far, the asparagus has been eaten gently steamed with fish or in a risotto, early season asparagus is too nice to eat any other way.  Once the sprues get a bit fatter, they are lovely in a goat’s cheese and asparagus tart (any mild “melty” cheese will work if you can’t get goat’s cheese during “lockdown).  I’ve added that recipe too for you to enjoy.

Asparagus and Goat’s Cheese Tart

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