Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Best Day of the Gardening Year

There is a day (usually some time in February) when I take a sandwich outside and sit in the low winter sunlight. This sandwich is called the Hope of Summer Sandwich. I could give you a recipe for it, but I am no Nigella Lawson and in any case, the filling can be whatever we fancy, as long as salad is involved. Chocolate spread has never been included in the Hope of Summer Sandwich. I understand that this might appear to be a shocking omission for a chocoholic, but I am not crazy about chocolate spread and in any case, we must consider the salad element (even my relatively untrained tastebuds recognise that tomatoes do nothing for chocolate spread). 

Crocus tommasinianus
You may quite rightly be thinking that I should stop all these thoughts of bread and get out more. I agree, but I have had a brief spell in hospital and have been stuck indoors since late October. Consequently there has been plenty of time to think about food and not much time to garden, so the gardening to-do list is lengthening by the second and I may be ready for winter some time next spring. Instead of being tucked up in fertile soil, bulbs are strewn across my rather less than fertile office floor and the heating is turned down in a vain attempt to keep the bulbs happy until I am finished with the whole convalescing malarkey. As you can imagine, preserving the bulbs is playing havoc with my typing speed as my fingers are fair freezing to the keyboard - something which will not be happening when I tuck into my Hope of Summer Sandwich.

Helleborus x hybridus
The Hope of Summer Sandwich is significant because it is eaten on my very favourite day in the gardening year: the first day it is sunny enough to sit outside and perhaps even justify accessorising my lunch attire with a pair of sunglasses. It is a day which fills me with hope that summer will return and I will eventually warm through to the marrow, throw off my thermals and barbecue some corn on the cob. Even better, if it is windless and sunny enough for me to eat al fresco, there is a chance that I might be joined for lunch by an early bee.  


There are many contenders for the best day of the gardening year. Switching on the propagator should rightly be accompanied by a fanfare, champagne and a party until dawn. The first snowdrop nudging through the soil is certainly cause for a giant bar of chocolate; and the completion of just about any gardening task really ought to be celebrated with a hot coffee and a jolly good sit down. But it is that first sunny lunch time which is my favourite. It seems a little inadequate to celebrate it with a sandwich (especially as I am a coeliac and gluten-free bread is rarely delightful) but it is a decades-old tradition and it wouldn’t be right to upgrade it to something more upmarket.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'
Of course, if you live in a place where winter isn't very cold, Hope of Summer Sandwich day is not going to take priority in your gardening year. Perhaps you like the cold and the first frost of winter is a cause for celebration, but for me, much as I love the heat of summer, Hope of Summer Sandwich day is more of a cause for celebration than summer itself. 

30 comments:

  1. What a lovely idea! I think I might adopt that myself. It is funny, isn't it, how there really is one day of the year which signals both spring and autumn, a throwing off/putting on the woollies year. I much prefer Spring to autumn even though autumn is arguably more beautiful. I hope you're better soon and can get the bulbs in.

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    1. Thank you! The bulbs are being planted in very small batches with giant rests in between. Thankfully bulbs can be very forgiving!

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  2. Ah yes, I know that sandwich. That first day when you can actually feel the warmth in the sun and a little Vitamin D being made. It's blissful. As you say, there are lots of lovely moments in the gardening calendar, but that one is definitely one of the best. CJ xx

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    1. I am delighted to meet a fellow aficionado of the Hope of Summer Sandwich!

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  3. Let's all hope that we do actually get a summer next year after this year's washout. I have a few favourite times of the gardening year, sowing the first seeds, picking the first sun warmed tomato from the vine and popping it straight in to my mouth and tipping up the first container of spuds and seeing what I can find. Hope you're on the mend and are recuperating well.

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    1. Thank you - I'm much better than I was. I agree about that first sun warmed tom. Such a treat - oh, and the first strawberry!

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  4. Get completely well soon! The best day of the gardening year for me would probably be the first warm day of spring, when the daffodils and forsythias are blooming and the earth is damp and little green sprigs are coming out along tree branches, all the birds are singing and the air is still fresh and cool. I would call it the Return of Spring Sandwich, as summer with its stifling heat and humidity is far from my favorite season. By the way, I am a chocoholic, and I would never put chocolate on a sandwich!

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    1. Thank you. You describe that first warm spring day so wonderfully, I am there with you, even though it's a blustery day in December. I am pleased to note that you have excellent taste in food stuffs!

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  5. What a great tradition! Now that I've moved up North, I need some traditions like this - anything to make it through the winter and even celebrate it's passing! Sitting in the sunlight and eating a sandwich full of the tastes of summer sounds simply delightful. I hope you recover quickly and can get to those bulbs soon!

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    1. Thank you! I am delighted that you are thinking about introducing this celebration into your new cooler-weather life!

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  6. I hope your converlasing goes well, it is frustrating for a gardener to be out of action.

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    1. Thank you. It is extremely frustrating! There is so much to do and I was supposed to be landscaping a new area this winter!

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  7. What a wonderful tradition! I hope you are feeling better. The best gardening day for me is when I notice the first spring bulbs poking their little heads out of the ground - ever so slightly - to see if it's safe to sprout.

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    1. I clearly remember my mum showing me a clump of snowdrops peeping through the soil when I was five years old. My mum loathed January, so I suspect that she would have shared your opinion of the best gardening day. Those first flowers emerging are a sign of brighter, longer days to come which must be wonderful for anyone who hates January as much as Mum did!

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  8. I'm not sure which day I would choose as my favourite garden day. I agree with you that chocolate spread has no place in a salad sandwich, in fact chocolate spread has no place in a sandwich at allo in my opinion.
    I hope you were not in hospital for anything too serious and that you have are recovering well.

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    1. Quite right too. I am at a loss as to why anyone would want to eat a chocolate spread sandwich. My kids would live off them if I didn't keep "forgetting" to replace the empty jars.
      I am getting better, thank you. Trying not to do too much is proving to be a bit of a challenge!

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  9. I loved reading this. :) I hear you...
    All the best to you.

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  10. Whilst I was still cooing over the bee in the crocus image I got to the hamamelis and automatically breathed in as if I could smell that wonderful scent....oooh!
    Your HoSS is wonderful. I usually record our last day of sitting out (sometime in mid October), as the spring/summer one varies, perhaps for 2016 we should all record our HoSS day!
    So sorry to hear you have been and still are laid up, I wish you a speedy recovery Sarah. I missed commenting on your last post-I do leave quite a lot for the beasties, but here with no frost, it can all get a bit mushy, so some things have to go.

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    1. That's a great idea! Of course it could lead to HoSS Day Envy if someone celebrates early! I'm pleased that you leave some stems for our wilder friends. It's so worthwhile doing.
      Thank you for your kind wishes, I am slowly getting back on my feet.

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  11. Love the idea of celebrating the switching on the propagator with champagne! I'm more of the Hope of Autumn sandwich but the start of each season should be celebrated really x

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    1. That's interesting. Although autumn is my favourite season, I never think to celebrate its arrival. I guess it's because I love summer so much that I'm quite happy to have a late autumn (so long as winter doesn't arrive early and squeeze it out). Celebrating the start of each season has a great deal to recommend it.

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  12. I like the idea of the Hope of Summer Sandwich. I measure the arrival of spring by bulbs - the first snowdrop, the first crocus, the first early tulip. It all feels a long way off. Sigh.

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    1. Cheer up Jason! It will be here before we know it! Obviously it will be a bit later here, because most of the bulbs are still on my office floor.

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  13. That is a lovely idea!!! The first sunny day certainly needs to be marked!
    So sorry to hear you've been convalescing,I haven't been able to garden either or plants bulbs so I know exactly how you feel. I hope you are feeling better now. Take it easy and wait for spring, it won't be long now...xxx

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    1. Poor you - I'm sorry to read that. Isn't it frustrating? I look forward to hearing about you marking the first sunny day of 2016!

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  14. You're right. There's always a day when you realise that Spring is just around the corner. February is a nice month, well it beats November hands down!
    Take care and get well soon.

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    1. Thank you! February is marvellously short, which is as well, because January has about 200 days in it. ;-)

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  15. I hear you! That magic moment when you see the spikes of daffodils have burst through the soil and you stand there with a mug of tea and you know it won't be long until spring. Take time to get completely better before you go bulb crazy.

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    1. Thank you - I am trying. The sun is now shining, so I am hoping to pop outside for an hour of gentle bulb planting. Just little, easy bulbs. The big lads - Allium, Daffs, Tulips - will have to wait another week.

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