It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to

Here at Chez Rivendell a tradition has evolved, centred on my birthday, of transferring the summer bedding from its indoor quarters to the beds, borders, baskets and planters. Historically, the reason for this was that family and friends generous enough to donate to my birthday fund financed the expeditions to buy in stuff that I didn’t grow myself. Though additions of growing accommodation over the years mean that I grow a lot more myself, I still have a list of things which either, for some reason, I never succeed in growing or are too much fuss to grow. Plus I still run out of accommodation and the car usually becomes a greenhouse for the early part of May!

So the dawn of my birthday now heralds that day when hard decisions have to be made. Which plants haven’t grown as well as I would like? Which haven’t branched out properly despite all the pinching? The poor branchers get sorted out, pinched again and sent back to primary school – maybe they will develop to fill in any gaps where more advanced students drop out later.

But for the wimps, the compost heap beckons. Strangely, I feel a real pang of sorrow as I upend a pot into the bucket for its journey to that place out of sight behind the shrubbery. After all, that plant was one of my babies. It just hasn’t grown up enough. Was that because, for some reason, I missed it whenever I was feeding the plantlets? Is it really my fault that despite all its efforts to succeed, I didn’t give it a proper chance? So I do shed a tear or two.

These plants didn’t make it!

But then, the ultimate sacrifice of those plants also creates some space where I can temporarily store the fruits of my excursions to bedding plant purveying places. Although in a way I’m getting it backwards by putting plants that will have been in outdoor displays into a greenhouse rather than leaving them to harden outdoors, experience tells me that if I lay a load of those lovely little polystyrene six packs over the patio overnight, they will contain a load of flattened plants the following morning. Resident cat loves curling up on them! No! He loves rolling all over them! Once those little plants are in the ground he behaves but, for some reason known only to him, a tray of little flower pots or a row of six packs are fair bedding for him! (Pardon the excruciating pun!)

So today is slaughter day. It’s also annual hardening off day. It takes an hour or so to lay everything out on the lawn and another hour to get it all away again. So I harden off for one day only. It’s never caused me a problem.

A day of general preparation (lounging around) will follow before the plant hunt on Monday and Tuesday. I’ve got the list ready. On Wednesday I’ll pick up the 800 litres of compost I have on order, probably in three car trips. Multi-purpose stuff is ok for what it’s ok for but for baskets and planters you can’t beat proper basket compost.

For me, Chelsea is something to watch on the BBC, not visit. On telly I can fast forward past the latest Diarmuid Gavin monstrosity.

Then, to complete the traditional activity of the week, Thursday and Friday will, whatever the weather, be the two planting out days.

Unless it rains that is.