Sandy's Garden ... Brrrr...itish Summer Time

As I write this it’s March 29, a date that welcomes the start of British Summer Time in 2020.

And it’s just plain cold, even in my south-facing garden, with frost forecast for tonight. I tell you, it wasn’t like this when we were in the European Union! And don’t bother to check up on my recollection of things past; I prefer to shoot from the hip, copying Emperor Donald the Magnificent; and to reinforce my view by mimicking the theme of the first couple of stanzas of Lewis Carroll’s wonderful poem, ‘The Hunting of the Snark.’ Appropriately, this begins with ‘Fit the First – the Landing’; and the opening verses are: “Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried, / As he landed his crew with care; / Supporting each man on the top of the tide / By a finger entwined in his hair. // "Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice: / That alone should encourage the crew. / Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice: / What I tell you three times is true." (Source: Poets of the English Language, edited by W. H. Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson and published in New York by Viking Press in 1950.)

I tell you, it wasn’t like this when we were in the European Union! It most assuredly was not. Convinced? You certainly should be! But a lot of things are not the same at present, both inside and outside the EU. People in what are classified as non-essential jobs are forbidden to go to work; schools are closed indefinitely; health services are struggling to cope; only close family members are legally permitted to attend funerals and they must observe social distancing, refraining from kissing or hugging distraught relatives; and in any event, funeral undertakers are being overwhelmed in some countries, with the ghastly necessity for mass graves being whispered in some influential circles. These are certainly not normal times – and I don’t need to say this three times to make it true!

My preferred Sunday newspaper opines that this would be a great time to get on in the garden, backing this up with a five-page guide to gardening during the coronavirus lockdown. I’m not sure that letting the kids run riot with hosepipes should come under the heading of ‘gardening,’ though I’m happy to accept that this activity would entertain children for lengthy periods during a warm summer day. However, children won’t do themselves any good at all soaking one another and much else in my garden today. And, while there is a guide to what are described as ‘Ten of the best plant websites,’ one might question the advisability of adding further time-sensitive loads to distribution companies at this time, as well as wondering if nursery staff are classified as essential workers to deal with these extra orders.

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

My local garden centre is closed on government advice; its staff are, presumably, classified as non-essential. I am not sure its owners would agree for, as well as being part-way through a massive expansion and comprehensive redesign of their entire site … work on which has, of course, stopped … the place is stowed out with plants in anticipation of the reawakening of the gardening season. I don’t know if staff are allowed in to tend to the plant stock; I don’t know who bears the loss when tens of thousands of pounds worth … maybe hundreds of thousands of pounds worth … of plants go straight to the compost bins when the business reopens. I understand that most (all?) large garden centres have decided to close in the better interests of their customers and staff. For the avoidance of doubt, I do know that countless retail businesses, large and small, are closed, their owners wondering anxiously about their finances; that many workers have been made redundant; that the self-employed … like my hair stylist … are very worried; and, with garden centres closed, I don’t think this is the right time to advocate doing more than routine garden maintenance and deferred tasks.