Each year I like to base my planting schemes on some topic or theme. Last year I used colour as the basis for each bed. This year I've been searching for something different.
And yesterday I found it!
My inspiration does not stem from a garden or a horticultural idea, but from the French Revolution and an artist, Ruth Ewan's modernist take on the revolutionary calendar.
Somewhere in my memory I could recall that the French tried to impose a new calendar onto the populous after the revolution. This decimalisation of days counted ten hours in a day, ten days in a week, three weeks in a month and those few days left over were grouped into, what must have been, a riotous late September festivity that, roughly translated, means days with no knickers, Les Sansculottides.
In order to tear the peasantry away from their Christian roots, the naming of days and months had to be changed radically. In France, Saint's days featured large. The commune decided that peasants should go back to the fields, quite literally, renaming the months after the agricultural calendar and renaming each day after a fruit, vegetable, animal, seed, tree or agricultural implement. My birthday, 23rd APRIL is Hawthorn in the month Floréal. My mother, whose birthday is 22nd NOVEMBER is turnip in the month Frimaire (frost)
I learned about this at Camden Art Centre, where the artist Ruth Ewan has arranged the correct object for every day of every month in one sunny room. The exhibit is extraordinarily enjoyable to watch, in a way that no-one might have imagined. The artist transforms the gallery into a rural backwater evoking gardens of the past, and harvests of the past. The presence of obvious supermarket examples of, for example, broccoli (31st January), doesn't dampen the effect one iota. We all enjoyed discovering our vegetable birthday and I found it enjoyable to photograph Mike my husband and my mother as they made their way through the gallery. There was something about the show that made you want to have a souvenir of your presence there.
Here was the perfect theme for each of my vegetable beds. I decided that I would select the appropriate vegetables to relate to each month of the revolutionary calendar. One bed per month. My beds come into production at different times of the year, so it is quite appropriate that the beds that get the early light should be dubbed, Germinal (Germination - March), then I should follow onto Floréal (Flowery - April/May), Prairial (Meadows - May/June) When I've been right through five 'months' I can begin again with the first bed.
In my Germinal bed I am planting Chard (26 March), Round Lettuce (5th April), Radish (8th April), and rocket (13th April). The Floréal bed will contain Burnet, Orach, Borage, Chive and Wild Mustard. Prairial will contain Thyme, Strawberry, Peas and Verbena.
I should stress that the dates do not relate to the time of sowing, neither necessarily of harvesting. I shall have to plan ahead if, for example, I am to ensure Tomatoes, Grapes and Aubergine in Vendémiaire (Grape Harvest - September/October) But I enjoy the thought of the serendipity of the juxtapositions. They are so different from the normal rotation systems. And somewhere in all this is a rational arrangement of a year of crops. Anything the French do in their gardens I'm bound to enjoy. Perhaps this rather revolutionary planting scheme will catch on, as much as Equality, Liberty and Fraternity did?
Thanks to the arts centre for their enlightened photography policy. Please do take photographs, but please also quote our hashtag in your blog. I'm happy to do so!