Today is the designated weekend for putting up the Christmas lights. This is quite a major enterprise ‘chez McHugh’, we really love Christmas lights and we add to the collection every year. None of us appreciate shorter hours of daylight, probably because we are always outside. Therefore, the Christmas light display is a good way of tiding us over the darkest month of the year. By the time they come down on 12th night, the days will be on their way to getting longer again. Also, this year I cannot help but think, Christmas lights might do something to alleviate the unrelenting gloom of 2020. If nothing else at Christmas, even if we can’t have our usual celebrations, maybe we can drive around admiring other people’s Christmas decorations! ‘Santa Patrick’ is up early and is soon joined by his two elves, Aideen and Diane, and their inexhaustible stream of loud Christmas music. I leave the merry band to their intricate hanging, suspending and connecting, with a gentle reminder to mind my plants and to try not to tread on any emerging bulbs.
I resolve to try and make progress with my bulb planting mission. I am now back to my original bulbs which are mainly tulips. There are still about 6000 left to plant and these bulbs are much more time consuming to plant than the multitudes of crocus bulbs in the terrace. This is particularly the case in certain areas, like the main herbaceous borders. All of these borders already have bulbs, but the tulips require regular replenishing. This job requires a certain amount of clearing (of dead material from perennials) to free up space to add the tulip bulbs. Most of the stalks and seed heads remain in the border until the Spring, for the benefit of wildlife, but I decide to remove the dead stems of the Dwarf Solidago (Golden Rod) to give space. I then retrieve the bulbs. Although they are now sorted into boxes and I know where to locate them, each box contains several varieties of bulb and they are fairly muddled together, therefore, it does take some time to extricate eg.20 bags of fringed tulips – which have five different variety names.
Today, I concentrate on the field border, I work in 10m sections, the border is 60m long. First clearing out the dead plant material, then adding the bulbs. I decide to be quite practical about this and fork up a section of soil and add 10/15 bulbs at a time rather like planting the daffodil and narcissi. This way, I am able to make reasonably fast progress and I complete 40m by the time light is fading, which was about 452 bulbs. I then continue removing the Golden Rod from the rest of the bed and empty the big green barrow and normal barrow in the compost. I then decide to put on the light in the tunnel to sort out the bulbs for the fruit tree border ready for tomorrow because finding them takes so long…there must be a better system! This time I needed 60 Peony flowered, 200 Fosteriana, 100 Fringed, and 90 Parrots! Before coming inside, I went to look at the lights and they look beautiful. Not everything is up yet but the new additions, four ‘stars within a star’ and one large snowflake, are in place, suspended between the organ pipes, a lovely new addition. Now the girls have got their eyes on the roof of the lobby and music room… “that looks a bit dark”, they comment… I’ll have to wait and see what they come up with!