Such a wonderful time of the year – spring – but it’s never easy to say when it has started and when it has finished.
Officially, the four seasons are determined by changing day-length, which is currently increasing by more than 20 minutes every week. This change is determined by how the earth orbits the sun and the tilt of its axis. On the first day of spring—the vernal equinox—day and night are each approximately 12 hours long; the actual point of equal day and night occurs in the Northern Hemisphere a few days before the vernal equinox. The sun crosses the celestial equator going northward; it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. The first day of summer—the summer solstice—is the longest day of the year, when the sun reaches its most northern point in the sky at mid-day. After this date, the days start getting shorter.
So, spring starts officially on Tuesday March 20th and ends Tuesday June 19th, but here in the centre of France the plants and birds beg to differ: they are pushing on regardless. We are having our lunches in the garden now, and the resident lizards are popping out at regular intervals to see it we drop anything. In the warmer gardens Primroses have started flowering and up in the greenhouse in the loft, seeds are germinating like there is no tomorrow. It’s all very exciting.
As usual I am growing more than we can cope with and as seedlings are ready they come down from the loft to the dining room windowsill and from there to a bench I have set up in the cabin by a big, south facing window. I am leaving the Begonias upstairs in the warm for a while yet but we have so far moved on a nice little selection of plants:
- Geranium Moulin Rouge
- Gazania Daybreak Tiger Stripe
- African Marigold Golden Puff
- Aubergene Amethyst
- Antirrinum Axium and
- Coleus Kong mix
Having completed the marking of student assignments for the day I have a little time to sow a few more trays or pots of seed and perhaps move one or two more down. Impatiens have germinated well and I am hoping my home grown plants will be successful. Impatiens downy mildew – Plasmopara obducens – is a new disease, found for the first time in the UK in 2003, which perhaps arrived on imported commercial propagation material (seed or cuttings). Controls have since been ineffective and 2011 was saw the biggest UK outbreak yet. While wholesale propagators like Ball/Colegrave are continuing to grow Impatiens in 2012, Thompson and Morgan will not be offering young plants and the DIY chain B&Q will not be selling their usual 20 million or so. They are encouraging customers to buy Petunias, Geraniums and Begonias instead but I refuse to be put off and will grow my own. No doubt I will be unbearably smug if all goes well and blame foreign imports if it doesn’t!
For those of you who follow these things, my plant of the week on Pinterest is the Daffodil, which have begun to flower again after last month’s cold spell.