VIDEO (WEEK 5): Peter Dowdall finds wonder in his tulip-filled garden

I wonder how much knowledge and information has been lost over the centuries as we ‘progress’ to ‘better’ ways of doing things.

Like how in god’s name did they build the pyramids with no excavators and cranes and what about Newgrange and Stonehenge?

What did they know then that we don’t know now? How did they get such pinpoint accuracy for the solstice and why? They had no GPS then, no smartphones. Clearly the technology and know-how that they did have was every bit as powerful, if not more-so and impressive, as modern day.

Astronomy amazes me, it just boggles my relatively simple mind.

I understand the moon last night hasn’t actually shrunk to the size and shape of a small crescent, I know it is the shadow of the planet I am standing on obscuring much of the sun’s light from hitting the moon and that’s why it looks the way it does and that it changes every night depending on position.

I know the light of many of the stars I see tonight is from stars that died millions of years ago but it takes that long for us to be able to see that light down here.

Even writing that last sentence has me boggled and delving any further into astronomy while amazing it is truly just mind blowing for me. Again, I refer to our predecessors, Archimedes et al and how in the world did they figure out everything that they did about the sun and our solar system with no satellites and space stations, which takes me nicely to tulips.

VIDEO (WEEK 5): Peter Dowdall finds wonder in his tulip-filled garden

Remember last autumn? Every year during the autumn one of the annual jobs in the garden is bulb planting. Seems a really thankless job at the time, lots of back breaking work and seemingly nothing to show for it, yes I know that all the bulbs will pay rich dividends next spring but it always seems ages away.

Then of course, real life distracts me and something else takes my attention and the bulb planting is once more forgotten, another task crossed off the to-do list. Time does move on of course and as sure as night follows day the winter starts to move into early spring and the thrill I still get is palpable when I see the daffodils and then later the tulips breaking the surface and poking their noses up through the soil.

There’s something about the fact that I have worked with nature’s calendar and things are working because I put bulbs of stored food into the soil at the right time of the year I will soon have stunning blooms brightening my garden.

VIDEO (WEEK 5): Peter Dowdall finds wonder in his tulip-filled garden

All I had to do was put them under the blanket and then let the magic happen, let the universe take over. It’s like plugging something in to the ultimate power source.

The daffodils are at their vernal best at the moment, my favourite dwarf tete a tete has been brightening up pots at my front door for several weeks at this stage. I can’t walk past the upright stems each holding several cheerful bright yellow blooms without them lifting me a bit each time.

There is something that deeply appeals to me about tulips. I don’t know how else to phrase that sentence.

It’s straightforward and true, I don’t know is it their simplicity, their elegance, the way they catch the light and seem to change colour at different times of the day, the intricate drama of the pistol and stamens inside the flower, probably it is a combination of the above that makes them so special.

I absolutely adore them and I have a few hundred now semi-grown and in full bud ready for the post daffodil display, these tulips will give colour right into early and nearly mid summer. A few hundred may sound a lot but I plant them in groups of 10 to 15 with little space between the groups.

Then a few hundred doesn’t seem to be so much and I would always recommend to mass plant bulbs as the display is so worth it.

Don’t plant five if 20 will fit. I feel colour is a truly individual call and I am always slow to advise on what colours should be planted.

A few years ago I wanted nothing but the red and yellow Darwin type everywhere. I wouldn’t entertain another colour in the garden except some of the more showy varieties and in particular Angelique in some black pots.

However, my tastes have changed and last autumn I didn’t plant one red or yellow tulip, instead mostly white, pale pink, and masses of spring green and flaming spring green.

For centuries, gardeners have been planning their gardens by the cycle of the moon. In the same way that the moon pulls the world’s oceans to and fro as tides so too it pulls water in the soil with the ground holding more and less moisture depending on where the moon is in its cycle.

Plants and in particular flowers that produce their bounty above ground should be sown and planted in the period of the waning or new moon.

In other words, between the period of a new moon to a full moon and those that are grown for what they produce under the ground should be planted in the period of a waxing moon from the day after a full moon to the day before a new moon.

It’s something that I find fascinating but I would be lying if I said I plan my garden around the moon, I don’t.

I’m really not sure when I planted my tulips, but what other gardening magic is there to be learned from astronomy and in particular what about the recent lunar eclipse.

The sun and moon are so essential to our very existence and everything that they do has such an impact upon our world should we really just accept the phenomenon of March 20, 2015 as a footnote to the news, an interesting strange occurrence in the sky?

I’m boggled by the whole thing.

READ MORE: VIDEO (WEEK 4): How to brighten up your garden

VIDEO (Week 3): How to protect your plants from infections


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