There has been a lot of action in the glasshouses lately: pots and labels have been sorted, potting benches swept so clean you could sow your dinner on them. Ed and Sonny have done their time breaking the stone floor, to let some more earth shine through. It’s looking ship-shape, I thought to myself, but a little, I don’t know, bare. Like something was missing. Then I realised what: plants.
Not everyone’s first choice for the conservatory, I admit, but when I fetched in a trolley of potted rhubarb, they really lifted the place. The stems are already a few inches tall, with the blush vividity of only youth, and the wee leaves unclenching as prettily as a flower bud. THIS is what makes perennials – especially herbaceous perennials – great: they are ahead of the game. We will be picking rhubarb outside while the courgette seeds are still snoring in their tins.
I didn’t just bring the crowns in to make the place look elegant, though. Next week’s Open Day at Hawkwood is our unilaterally-declared Rhubarb Day, a celebration of this fine spring fruit. Our answer to the famous forcing sheds of Yorkshire is the Cockney Blanching Bender in the kitchen garden, from under which we will pluck choice pink “champagne” stalks for sale and tastings. The latter will be in the form of “sherbet dips”, that confectionary product apparently being inspired by rhubarb stems dabbed in sugar.
Elsewhere, we planted half an orchard last week, and got the post and wire ready for the espaliered pears and cooking apples. We live in the faith that someone, somewhere, is growing us some oats: the economic future is crumble.