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Budding willow stems and the ugly side of gardening

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 09 Mar 2011 at 09:10 PM

 

1. Cut back a couple of hundred perennials

2. Spread three cubic metres of compost

3. Hand weed 150 square metres of gravel path and driveway

This is my to do list for early March.  It is also the least effective advert ever developed for gardening.

This is not good.  I am trying to convince the kids that gardening is fun and that message is hardly brought home by a task list that could have been written by a sadistic prison officer.

Thankfully, horticultural propaganda is never far away.  We have the cutting garden bearing fruit, the crocus rings flowering with fanatical zeal on the lawn, and now we have twigs.

So, OK, twigs might not sound fascinating, but in my best M&S voice, these aren’t just twigs, these are goat willow twigs.

We cut them from the tree just over a week ago, placed them in a vase and plonked them on the kitchen table.  Then we waited.

Well we didn’t just wait because twigs on their own can be a little dull so first we strung the branches with coloured plastic eggs (and I know it’s not Easter, but we’re the family who make mince pies in February – yes that’s right, we’re anarchists).

But in a couple of days the twigs began their own decorating.  First came the soft white buds, then these burst into sprightly catkins.

 And goat willow twigs (Saix caprea) aren’t the only bits of spring you can cajole into an early appearance.  The stems of hazels, horse chestnuts, whitebeams and many other trees are also worth a go.  What’s more, the kids can see them develop at close range and in the comfort and warmth of the house should the weather turn wintery.

Sadly, shifting compost is a lot less interior-friendly and I can report that hanging plastic Easter eggs from the wheelbarrow handles does very little to improve the task.

 

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