I've just come in from an arm-buggering session mowing the grass. I own a handmower partly because it's better for the environment (not using petrol or electricity), partly because I can't afford to get someone to regularly mow my lawns for me, and partly because it's a lot cheaper than a gym membership (that is, it's good exercise). I haven't really needed to mow all winter, but now that it's spring, it seems to be a weekly calling, which a bugger 'cause i really don't like grass (and have evil plans afoot to kill it all...).
However, spring has also brought a few other surprises: the very unlikely flower that bloomed out of the otherwise unremarkable spikey plant has bloomed again (pictured above). I don't know what it's called.
The blueberries are starting to form. It's the first time I've ever seen blueberries that have not come from a plastic container, so I'm pretty damn excited. The particular plant variety pictured right is called 'Denise', but 'Brigitta' is also starting to produce.
As an experiment, I planted the two trees in different areas - Brigitta is in full sun in the front yard, and Denise is down the side of the house with partial sun, particularly in winter. Now I know it's not a true experiment as they're different varieties; but because blueberries apparently like full sun, I just wanted to see what would happen. Interestingly, Denise, who lost all her leaves in winter, has actually produced more flowers (and hence will produce more berries) than Brigitta, who retained a few of her leaves. They're actually very beautiful bushes, with leaves that turned a lovely artichoke purple in autumn. You can see a few of the white flowers that then turn into the berries in the picture. The berries are still quite small and not ready for eating, but I suspect that I'm going to have to net them this weekend before the ruddy blackbirds cotton on.
Meanwhile, the artichokes are on super-productive-mega-drive. I can't keep up with the sheer pace, particularly as the one plant seems to have divided over the 8 or so months I've had it, and so I have twice as many artichokes. I didn't realise until this morning, but the buds are forming all the way down the stem, not just at the top. I had a few friends around last weekend and decided to see what they were like to BBQ. I boiled the artichokes for about ten minutes, then halved them and BBQed them with some olive oil. They're fantastically versatile vegetables once you get over the initial fear of cooking them. Additionally, while people say 'oh you have to get out the choke', 'you can't eat the choke', I believe that's rubbish. I eat the choke every time (and I've never choked...).
The strawberries that the crazy neighbour gave me last year, too late in the season to actually produce, have quadrupled in size and have the lovely white and yellow flowers that I'd be quite happy having in the garden even if they didn't produce fruit.
One thing that disappoints me however, is that my nectarine tree seems to have leaf curl. This morning, I trotted off to the nursery that sold me the tree in August to get them to confirm the problem, and they seemed surprised that it had the problem so soon. Apparently, there's not much I can do about it at the moment other than pull all the 'curled' leaves off and burn or tightly bag them and stick them in the bin to stop the spread of the fungal infection. Then next winter I need to spray them with anti-fungal spray, and again as the tree's budding.