Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.
With Chelsea Flower Show in a couple of weeks I am sure the garden designers are heaving a sigh of relief and unplugging their hair-dryers as there is no longer any need to persuade their blooms to blossom. I am looking forward to seeing what extravagant and expensive creations the designers come up with this year.
Re flowers, now. Before planting so much as a solitary buttercup – which would look dashed silly, anyway – the gardener should give some thought to the general colour-scheme that will result when everything (to his astonishment) has come up. A garden containing only red flowers, for example, is an affront to the eye and a menace to the peace of the home, the irritant effect of red upon the nerve-centres being well known to psychologists, bulls and the retired military. In the same way, an all-white garden tends to induce snow-blindness in the family and neighbours, while an all-yellow one just looks bilious.
The gardener, then, must either work out a preliminary colour-scheme himself or hire a local artist for a small sum in bronze. As a foundation, a few roses, tulips and/or dahlias are generally useful, as these can be had in several pleasing shades and always look well in vases. Among roses, my personal favourites are Mrs. Wapshott (light crimson: very sweet), Lady Bilch-Overspoon (glossy rose: most abundant and continuous bloomer), Prunella Simpson (pink: large), Fifi Mechante (creamy pink: very free and beautiful), General Quacklingham (rich velvety crimson: very strong), and O. J. W. Featheringstonehamptonhaugh (salmon pink: large white eye). Apart from the two last, a jollier bunch of girls one could not hope to meet.
His roses selected, and his tulips and dahlias added to taste, the gardener can turn his attention to his hardy annuals – those tough little growths which can be trusted to do their stuff with the minimum of supervision. The most popular of these, at the moment, are phlox, sox, clarkia elegans (named, I believe, after that Mr. Clark who introduced spats into England), larkspur, love-in-a-mist, fun-in-a-belfry, coreopsis, ellipsis, mignonette, candytuft, bishop’s-nightshirt, nasturtium and echsol … eschscol… (Just a moment, please)… eschscholtzia. The last-named, which is pronounced like a walrus sneezing through a double thickness of felt after a heavy meal on a murky evening in Kirkcudbright, is generally spelt “Cal-i-for-ni-an pop-py”, to the relief of all.
I am sure the Chelsea designers will find such advice most useful and I am going to search the plant catalogues for fun-in-a-belfry and bishop’s nightshirt!
For those without outside space, don’t forget that you can learn much about spring planting indoors from another of our other gardening titles – Room and Window Gardening.
Select some nice firm pears. To each lb. allow ½ a lb. of brown sugar, and ¼ of a pint of malt vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice.
Peel the pears and tie the spices in muslin. Place the vinegar, sugar and spices in a preserving-pan; when boiling add the pears, and cook them gently until tender. Remove the pears to a bowl or large basin, boil the syrup for about 10 minutes longer, then pour it over the fruit. On the following day boil up the syrup, and repeat the process the two following days. On the third day place the pears in jars or wide-necked bottles, and remove the spices before adding the vinegar to the fruit. Store in a dry, cool place.
My mother makes pickled pears (I think her recipe is similar to Mrs B’s) – great with ham and other cold meats and my Dad’s favourite. The lovely painting on the cover of our edition of this book shows pears and the equipment needed for preserving them.
The fact that neither Mr. Heath (“Towser”) Robinson nor myself has ever grown any of the flowers or vegetables mentioned in this work will not, we hope, detract from its educational value or its usefulness as a fly-swatter. After all, very few dramatic critics – a curious breed of men, remarkable chiefly for their ability to sleep through the loudest shows – have ever written plays; and, of those who have, the majority are now wishing that they had chosen something easier, such as making little woollen models of the Albert Hall. The looker-on, in other words, sees most of the game; and as onlookers (preferably from arm-chairs, with a large jug of something soothing within easy reach) Mr. Heath Robinson and I acknowledge few superiors below the rank of K.B.E.