It’s so tempting to just post a pretty picture of blooming rhododendrons or bearded iris, but instead I bring you a small discourse on that fabled thing whose existence I sometimes doubt: A fine tilth.
I’ve heard rumours about it, of course, and seen it on gardening TV shows, though I’m sure it’s all done with mirrors, or possibly computer animation. For all I know, there IS no such thing as “a fine tilth”.
When I put my spade in the ground, this is what I contend with:
A 10″ layer of dense, compacted soil that will NEVER become “a fine tilth” – or even a mediocre tilth…And then comes the pure clay.
Now, don’t get me wrong; when I don’t have to dig holes in it I really appreciate my soil; even the top soil is packed with clay particles, so it has excellent water retention properties and I will never ever have to water a flower bed or a vegetable garden! (But god, it’s heavy stuff to shift around…)
Then comes another layer – perhaps another 10″ – of pure clay mixed with sediments from when this area was seabed, though in some areas these two layers are separated by an inch of sand. That’s the only real issue I have with my soil; it prevents rain water from seeping into the ground, so the top soil gets rather soggy after heavy rain. However, the drain we had installed last year more or less takes care of this, so at the end of the day I suspect I couldn’t ask for a better place for my plants.
They will never dry out and wilt, and the soil feels rich and nutritious, so I’m quite sure there is also very little risk of them going “hungry”.
The two pictures above are the Rhododendrons that used to grow on the Flâneur Husband’s deck in Aberdeen and that I carried home in a sports bag as checked-in luggage on the flight… I’m amazed how well they came through that ordeal, and they seem to be really happy in their new country.
This is a rhododendron that was in the garden when we bought the summer house, but it’s putting on the best display I’ve seen from it so far, and I’m completely in love with it. The buds have a striking blue colour, though the flowers turn out much more purple – which is also pretty!
And here’s a shot from the day after: