Snowdrops blossom near Sligo Creek. Spring seems to be coming early this year. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)
4 min

Every Sunday morning I tune into the most oddly compelling radio program I’ve ever heard, even though I can barely understand a word of it.

It’s a show on BBC Radio 4 called “Gardeners’ Question Time,” wherein a panel of experts answers horticultural questions. It’s like “Car Talk,” but about aspidistras rather than Oldsmobiles.

“Gardeners’ Question Time” broadcasts every week from a different town in the United Kingdom. As with so much of the British Isles, these are places that sound as if they were made up by Gilbert and Sullivan: Tring, Upwell, Forfar …

But then again, the names of some of the panel members sound fake, too: Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood, Anne Swithinbank. … They remind me of the rude mechanicals from a Shakespeare play.

“GQT” — as its fans call it — is the perfect soundtrack for a morning dog walk, even if I will never do a single thing that’s suggested on the show. I just like listening to those accents and hearing the passion behind the questions and the knowledge behind the answers.

Why are one lady’s edelweiss plants — bought to remind herself of a walking holiday in the Dolomites — all “looking quite dead?” (The consensus: too wet.)

What shrub would do well in a soggy spot in the garden? (Rubus cockburnianus, a flowering bramble.)

Can you grow saffron in England? (Maybe not in Manchester, but probably in Suffolk — enough to spice up a couple of paellas a year, anyway.)

I chuckle every time I hear the words “courgette” (English for “zucchini”) or “COM-pahst” (English for “compost”).

“GQT” is Britain in microcosm — in a terrarium, if you will. It blooms with the wonderful enthusiasms of the English, their strange obsessions and their delight in organizing themselves into garden clubs.

There’s even an “Upstairs, Downstairs” element to it. A question about how to dispatch mites in an orangery might be followed by one on when to plant carrots in an allotment, what the English call a community garden.

I’ve had plants on my mind lately. Some of the daffodils are out in our backyard. There’s a cherry tree at the end of our street that’s already losing its blossoms. My eyes are itchy from pollen and it isn’t even March.

The birds are making themselves more known now, too. They’re singing earlier in the morning — or I’m noticing them earlier — and gangs of robins are strutting across lawns like little Mussolinis. I keep wondering if it’s spring yet. We had an 80-degree day last week, followed by snow.

The second week in March is usually when I invite readers to enter my annual Springtime in Washington Haiku Contest. But if I wait till then, spring might be over. So consider the contest officially open.

As always, I demand that contestants use the haiku form that most of us learned in school: five syllables, seven syllables, then five syllables. Take as your inspiration Washington in the spring. You may interpret that liberally.

Send your entries — with “Haiku” in the subject line — to me at Be sure to include your name and the town you live in. I’ll print my favorites in an upcoming column.

And if you are so inclined, you can find “Gardeners’ Question Time” by searching for it at It’s also on most podcast apps and the BBC Sounds app.

Together again

These D.C. area high schools — and an elementary school! — are planning reunions:

Walter Johnson High Class of 1973 — Oct. 7. Visit or “WJ Class of 1973 — 50th Reunion 2023” on Facebook.

Horace Mann Elementary Class of 1958 — May 4 and 5. Email Jennie Fogarty at

Northwood High Class of 1973 — Oct. 28. Contact Brian Coffman at

Peary High Class of 1973 — June 9 and 10. For information, email

Wheaton High Class of 1968 — Sept. 23. Email or visit website