Potato Day in January carries calendrical significance like a gardening equivalent of the Chinese New Year. For the Chinese, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, but how will this gardening year be named? Will it be the year of evasion and lying, when we pretend we have bought lots of seeds to help the garden grow and bloom, but discover that all we have are some very expensive spent husks? Will it be the year of invasion and ruin when all those pests that have been amassing in their hundreds of thousands on the garden border, decide to invade and destroy? Or maybe it will be the year of garden parties which we subsequently deny all knowledge of, and blame on others, so that we can continue to enjoy the privileges of living in a lovely space, without having to do anything too tiring.
At least the year started strongly with a proper, in-person Potato Day. Last year’s was a lockdown casualty, so it was pleasing to once again gather at Caryford Hall to get our hands on a wide selection of little chitters. Sadly Belle de Fontenay – normally my first choice second early – was not available, an absence for which we can apparently thank Brexit. I was disappointed, but just shrugged it off as yet another “unintended” consequence of our departure from the EU. But there is some consolation in the thought that our little glove puppet of a Foreign Secretary will be cheered by the news that we are importing fewer potatoes from the continent. To paraphrase Ms Truss, British gardeners having to use French seed potatoes is…a…dis…grace. So, no more French spuds coming over here taking the place of our King Edwards or Duke of Yorks, but since I saw a headline the other day suggesting Duke of Yorks may have to be renamed soon, I bought some British-bred Gemson as a replacement. We will see how that goes.
Anyway, when not being flattened by Storm Eunice, the garden is showing the first signs that spring is near. Bulbs are emerging like warheads in the pots, and around the garden we have Snow Drops and Crocuses in abundance. At Potato Day I bought some early seeds: tomato, chilli and cosmos. They have now been sown, and will soon be taking over the spare bedroom in a bid to allay Mrs B’s fear of Tomato Envy – that condition caused by neighbours offering tree-sized tomato plants, at a point when ours have barely germinated.
They will ultimately go into the greenhouse, which has now been in the garden for four years. I was reminded of the fact in a flash back on Google pictures. Four years ago is, to paraphrase L.P. Hartley, a foreign country. I look through the “4 Years Ago This Week” photobook my phone has prodded me with and see that not only was I trying to rearrange lengths of aluminium and glass into a safe growing space, I was constructing raised beds and (The Horror! The Horror!) I was even lighting a bonfire in my front garden. How I avoided being drummed out of the village, I cannot say. I was probably saved by the fact that advanced communications like Facebook Groups were not widely known about in our rural community so I avoided the kind of neighbourhood trolling that would follow any misplaced bonfire now.