Of bluebell woods and potato beds

On the Sunday of Easter weekend, the first of two sequential public holiday weekends in Britain this year, we visited a bluebell wood that’s owned and managed by the Selborne Society (think of the late great Gilbert White, the 18th century pioneering English naturalist, although this bluebell wood is nowhere near his home in Hampshire). The wood we visited is open to the public only once a year, at what’s usually peak bluebell time, although this year the bluebells were slightly past their peak of wonderfulness. Still, massed English bluebells certainly know how to make you gasp and stretch your eyes.

And here’s a sight that makes us proud: our potato beds. We’ve done very well with potatoes since we started growing them two years ago, and this year we chose four different varieties of earlies, none of which we’ve grown before.  We planted them on 18th March – and baby, look at them now!

This photo shows a row of Sharpe’s Express, one in the middle of Red Duke of York, and one of Casablanca – and yes, we know we planted them too close together but they don’t seem to mind. We also planted a row of Pentland Javelins in another bit of the veggie plot which have been much slower to start, but they seem now to be catching up with their friends and neighbours.

I can’t tell you how exciting and gratifying it is to watch this happening – well I can try to explain but if you’re a gardener you won’t need to be told of the pleasure of plant growing and if you’re not, you’ll think it’s all a bit loopy. This is the season for gardeners to smile beatifically at one another and say things like, “Just look at my [insert name of thriving plant]!” and for their gardening friends to smile and nod. Be tolerant and kind: a brutal cold snap and gusts of rain are just around the corner waiting to destroy our happiness.

I’m even sufficiently crazed by springtime to track down a poem I slightly remembered about potatoes, to see if it was celebratory enough to post. It’s not, really, though it has some great lines: here are the first two verses of Peter Viereck’s “To A Sinister Potato”.

“Oh vast earth apple, waiting to be fried,

Of all the starers the most many-eyed,

What furtive purpose hatched you long ago

In Indiana or in Idaho?

In Indiana and in Idaho

Snug underground the great potatoes grow,

Puffed up with secret paranoias unguessed

By all the duped and starch-fed Middle West.”

I can see why I liked that poem so much as a teenager – it’s rather cynical and mean-spirited. I don’t admire cynicism any more, and especially not in springtime.

4 Responses to “Of bluebell woods and potato beds”

  1. mary mccallum Says:

    Lovely! Well done you. I have a potato poem, may put it up sometime.

  2. admin Says:

    Oh please put up your potato poem, Mary, I’d love to read it. I could even read it to the potatoes, I bet it would encourage them mightily.

  3. Pat Calton Buoncristiani Says:

    I still recall my first massed bluebells. Astonishing. I expect to look up and see blue, on a good day, and to see blue oceans stretched to the brim of the earth. But coming across a sea of blue in the midst of a woodland was breathtaking and not to be forgotten. And sadly I haven’t seen it again since that first time.

  4. Belinda Says:

    And the thing about English bluebells, as opposed to the Spanish ones, is that the flowers of the former really do seem to be floating off the ground in a sort of mirage – airs above the ground.

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