Tag Archives: St David’s Day

On March and losing my mojo

I suppose it happens to all of us gardeners, except the most dedicated and professional, at some point over the winter: we lose it. I lost it, big time, plus I’ve been busy working. So I managed to ignore the beast outside (fortunately P. didn’t) while simultaneously feeling very guilty about it (can you feel guilty about something you can also ignore?) and about the fact that I hadn’t blogged for ages and ages and ages.

It ends now, with some daffodils for Dewi Sant (St David, whose day it is today, and no, I am not wearing a leek in my hat. Oh, please).

Daff

I haven’t been completely idle – well, in gardening terms, that is, and though I have yet to get my seed order in I am intending to do it today. The seed potatoes are chitting and the shallots had better not be sprouting, or else. This year I saved my own garlic,

garlic

(which went in on the traditional date, the shortest day) instead of getting it from outside, so we’ll see how that works out. It’s Germidour, which usually does well round here though it never wins anything at the garden club show. I find it more reliable than the other varieties, but that might just be my garden…

…which this year has been really, really worked on. By loads of this stuff:

yum yum bigs bum

No, not Levington’s compost, but what the bags now contain: organic horse shit. Lots of it. And it is fantastic stuff: the worm population exploded last year, and I was quite conservative with the magic gunk. This needs to rot down a bit more but it will soon be ready. Yay!

Through the winter the veg patch has been busy, I do have to say. Celeriac and kale,

and there’ll soon be purple and white sprouting broccoli, too, and – by the look of it – it won’t be long before the first of the globe artichokes brakes cover.

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This is one of the baby plants from last year; the parents are enormous. Everything suffered in the storms, but the artichokes just bounced straight back. There had to be an upside to developing onion white rot… oh, that’s not a non sequitur; I got the vileness that is OWR in this bed. That means that I can’t, at the most conservative estimate, plant any of the onion family in it for at least eight ears (some say thirty). The only answer – I love my alliums and would doubtless forget – was to stick perennial veg in. I can’t buy globe artichokes round here easily, so the obvious thing to do was plant the beasts. And this means I can enjoy them when they are small and tender and yummy and wonderful in a risotto.

Better go and check them, then… I’m back!

Daffodils for Dewi Sant

That’s it, it’s officially almost spring. It’s bitterly cold, there’s a sneaky wind off Cardigan Bay, but I can see the hills, an improvement on the last few days, and it’s not raining. And it’s Saint David’s Day, so it really is nearly spring.

Daffs

Rather than break into a loud chorus of Hen Wlad (too much coughing would be involved, due to the arrival of the jolly end-of-winter bronchitis), I thought I’d celebrate my daffodils.

But why daffs and Wales? Actually, nobody seems quite sure. Some commentators think it’s the confusion between the Welsh names for leek (cehinen, pl. cennin) and daffodil (cehinen Bedr, literally St Peter’s leek). Leeks, according to legend, were selected as an identifying symbol for Welsh troops – they were fighting the Saxons, no surprise there – by St David. What is surprising is that St David should be associated with a military context, though – a saint noted for his aceticism and restraint. Budge the legend on a few centuries, though, and leeks are supposedly used to identify troops, notably Welsh archers, fighting in France under Henry V (thanks, Shakespeare).

Leeks dropped out of favour as a national symbol because they came to be associated with odious stereotypes of the ‘Taffy was a Welshman / Taffy was a thief’ variety. So what could work? Well, daffs appear around the same time as St David’s Day – indeed, I’ve just picked my first fifteen and started the annual count – and Lloyd George (a local lad) wore the daff on this day and encouraged others to do so. It’s a recent tradition, and it’s pretty common. Unlike the general wearing of leeks, though several US commentators, including Wikipedia, insist we’re all going around today wearing leeks. Just consider practicalities. And smell. I know which I go for.

And here are some of my finest, from the meadow and previous years – natch; they need a couple more weeks to really get going (and, yes, of course some of them are narcissi… but then strictly speaking, they all are):

A daffodil is for life, not just for St David’s Day

Daffodils.

It has to be, really. And at least this year I have the appropriate flowers out in time, and in some quantity (though I’ve only picked 29 so far – many more to be added to the count before May comes round and ‘production’ dribbles away to nothing).

Cennin Pedr – aka Peter’s Leeks:

Daff1

How did St Peter get in on the act? I’ve been trying to find out. So far I’ve come up with diddley-squat, but I have flushed someone who knows daffodils as cennin aur – golden leeks.  In England they’ve also been known as Lent Lillies, Lenten Lillies and Easter Lillies, as well as any number of more local names. I tend to stick with daffs.

I’ve always loved them. I’m not a huge fan of cut flowers, preferring them growing in the garden to dying in a vase (it’s the way I was brought up), but I do try and have a vase of daffs on the go during the season.

daffs2

Generally I pick the vulnerable ones, the ones which have bent their heads earthwards and which will either be splattered into the ground by rain or eaten by slugs if I don’t get there first. Fortunately I have so many that there is usually no shortage of these, despite dividing and replanting clumps every year.

daff3

They’re not quite this lavish yet (I must admit that this is a cheaty shot from last year), but they’ll get there soon. In spite of all the insanity of recent weather – ‘blow winds … blow / You cataracts and hurricanes, spout / Till you have drenched our steeples…’, and they flipping did, garden resembles a blasted heath, kept expecting ex-King Lear and Edgar to come into view for much of February – the prospects look good.

And even the primroses and the chionodoxas and the anemones and the beginnings of the fritillaries (shh, mentioning them might frighten them away) are starting to show themselves in the meadow. But tomorrow, 1 March, belongs to the cennin pedr, the daffodils which will soon turn the top garden yellow and green.

daff backs

For now and possibly for the next month, the garden belongs to the Big Yellows and the Smaller Doubles. Then the White Trumpets kick in, then the miscellaneous Inherited Unidentifiable Oddballs, and then the Poet’s Eyes will round the season off. I’ve a count of over 1500 to beat. And so it goes on, year after year. Wonderful stuff, gardening!

(And I shall be celebrating Gwyl Dewi Sant by going shopping in Chester. I will, of course, be wearing full national costume and carrying a giant leek, a rugby player, three miners, a bara brith and a small dragon. Not.)

Happy St David’s Day!

or Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus, of course / wrth gwrs:

coy

It’s a useful marker, 1st March.

Not only is it Dewi Sant, it also means that I can judge exactly, year on year, the progress of the weather – as far the daffodils have been affected, at least. A few years ago, for instance, my neighbour asked if she could have a couple of bunches for the church and I was able to give her four large armfuls, without any notable effect on what was left. This year, they’re late. There are going to be loads, but the majority are still only about six inches high and tightly in bud. In flower, as opposed to in bud, I have eight. Just eight.

But they are gorgeous,

that's better

And they smell wonderful…

So get out your leeks, stovepipe hats, harps and baby dragons (I can lend you those, they’re still living under my camellias and making occasional digging forays in the bottom garden), and have a good St David’s Day, wherever you are and whether you have any association with Wales or not.

And greetings from Cardigan Bay:

bay

looking out from just above Harlech, with the Llyn in the background. Thank heavens we’ve had some sun, even if it was yesterday evening and even if today is disappointingly grey… such a relief!