Minus eight outside, but the wintry sun is shouting out through the house, pouring golden light into the rooms and, for a while, making me think that it is Spring. And here am I, sitting by the Aga with my morning coffee and a shortbread biscuit - and being seriously seduced. Rather like the supermarkets, who start putting Easter hot-cross buns and chocolate cream eggs near to the doorway (two for the price of one) in January, so through the door this morning comes THE SEED CATALOGUE.
Oh, look here - a new kind of broccoli - Brokali Apollo. What a clever idea to call it after the god of light, the god of music and song, the leader of the Muses - yes here he is with "tasty and tender stems".
Or shall we have a medlar tree - "good central lawn feature", large PURE white flowers - oh let's make a hole in the front lawn and plant one! Hang on a minute - "truffle-like flavour" - surely for that we can read "earthy".
Provencal salad mix looks interesting - all those succulent little leaves which pop up so quickly that, unless you are Peter Rabbit, go to seed before you have a chance to cut them.
I like the sound of Pixie cabbage - is that a cabbage for pixies, or is it a tiny cabbage? Whichever it is the photograph shows it without a single caterpillar hole. And I do rather fancy Yin-Yang french beans (French, with a name like that?) -tender green stems in Summer and black/white beans to dry for Winter. Oh, and look at the wonderful picture of Canterbury bells - cup and saucer mixed in pink, white and blue, the "perfect cpttage garden flower." I accost the farmer as he comes through the door, "let's reorganise the garden. Get out the cheque book and we'll send for these things - I've made a list!" The farmer, who has the middle name of "Voice of Reason" raises his eyes towards the brilliantly blue Winter sky and says, "Forget it! Come down to earth and make me a coffee!"
Every year I get seduced by the seed catalogue just as my father did before me. My mother always called him the armchair gardener and I am very much like that myself - how I adore reading Vita Sackville West's Garden Book, particularly the bit about the young man turning up at her door at Sissinghurst, flinging open the back doors of his van and revealing a sea of pansies - all of which she bought. My pleasure seems to come from reading about it, rather than planting said pansies. I posted a poem about the armchair gardeners a long time ago. I make no apology for putting it on again:-
The Armchair Gardener.
Swathes of poppies,
banks of delphiniums,
frondy ferns and a
cascade of pools.
He planned it all from the
comfort of his armchair,
the golden dandelions
and a rash of purple thistles
painted their own canvas. (for my father, John Henry, who died in 1972)