Cat’s tails, reed mace, bullrush; something inanely great in knocking a long-hardened winter stem and watching the seeds unravel, disappearing into sunlight.
photographs by Roo Lewis: http://www.roolewis.com
Today feels like Spring. There’s a haze over the sky and all around birds are calling and moving as if all of a sudden taking nest building seriously. There’s a woodpecker tapping furiously in one of the robinias fifty yards away and I’m in a t-shirt. This time last year the magnolias had finished, every tulip was either in full show or going-over, and the garden was fast accelerating into mid spring vigour. This year however, the colour is still yet to arrive. No tulips out and even the early Iris’ haven’t finished flowering yet. Just shows how dramatically our climate can vary. Never been so thankful for hellebores before!
Each year, around the second or third week into the freeze, a robin comes into my shed and calls. The first year I was surprised and a bit confused, the second still surprised, and now I think I’d be a bit miffed if he didn’t bother.
The reason, I think, is that around mid November I start putting out seed on the bird table. Once it’s become habitual, and regular enough to be missed if not carried out on time, the robin takes to reminding me of my duties. It’s quite funny really; similar to a dog or a cat, which is very strange for a wild creature, especially a bird. And I’m not sure I’m all that comfortable about it either. Often I’ll arrive at the shed and he’ll already be waiting on a nearby or overhanging branch, calling directly at me, and flying in as soon as the door is opened. Ultimately I suppose all wild animals are opportunists by nature, and I can’t blame a robin for making a servant of a gullible gardener..
During the colder months I keep a large indoor pot planted up with bulbs I’ve forced and grown on in the greenhouse. It’s situated in a sunny spot in the kitchen for the owners to enjoy while little vibrant colour is on offer outside. The pot composition has been a work in progress; my initial attempts being pretty poor..
Here is the latest incarnation.
It’s been a heavy couple of months with very little space to take time away from the garden. I was therefore grateful in numerous ways for an unexpected day’s solid rain from morning to evening a couple of weeks ago. With some elm logs burning slowly in the stove for tea and warmth I settled into enjoying a slower pace for the day.
As I walked past the house yesterday, through the alley between the logstore and the kitchen windows, a dark winged creature flew up haphazardly into the air and dropped over the fence and into the bottom meadow. Eager to identify it, and driven by a desire reawakened after months of restriction, I caught up with the insect and found to my surprise that it was a red admiral butterfly.
Although red admirals have a long adult stage in the life cycle, and can be seen through most of the summer months from around late June, a spotting in late February is a rare thing, certainly over the last few decades. June/July sightings are most commonly migrants, flying in for the summer. My admiral, therefore, must have successfully overwintered in the garden somewhere. It must have awoken in this mild late winter in the hope and haze of a Spring.
I hope it survived the night!
Every year around this time the seeds arrive for the coming year. A large box from trusty Sarah Raven will arrive containing cut flowers of annuals and bi-annuals, veg and herb seeds all to be sown between now (February) and August. This year, although trying my hardest to cut down, the packet count was… well, far beyond sensible anyway. Last year I ordered much less but was still pushed to get even 70% of them out into the beds to flower. However, as with my approach for most things in the garden this year, I’m feeling ambitious, and am keen to grow as much variety as possible.