Even though it is only February, it feels like Spring is round the corner. We have had some sunshine and the days are finally starting to lengthen. Even more excitingly, the bulbs we planted in the Autumn are starting to appear in our pots and in the border. We took advantage of a cold but sunny weekend recently and embarked on some serious gardening tidying up – probably what we should have done at the end of the season last year, but better late than never, right? The cycle of nature never ceases to amaze me. As I hoed and dug and clipped away weeds and dead foliage, I revealed a whole new garden going on underneath. All sorts of shoots are appearing in every corner. I have no idea what most of them are – I can’t remember much from last year – but the sight of them lifted my heart and spurred me on in my work. Most exciting of all, I found a patch of snowdrops hiding behind the oil tank, their white flowers just starting to appear.
The herbs I planted last year were totally overgrown – who knew that oregano could spread that far? I knew the chocolate mint would take over if I didn’t control it, but I had no idea it would spread under the soil, forming a mat and reaching its tendrils into the heart of the other plants. I was ruthless, digging up, dividing, pruning hard and the air (and my hands) were soon filled with the mixed aromas of mint, chocolate, rosemary, thyme, oregano and lemon. It was the most fragrant and pleasurable gardening I have ever done. The result is a smaller, tidier patch although I know I will need to keep on top of it regularly.
Meanwhile, D is continuing the practical work up around the vegetable plot at the back of the garden. Enthused by the success of reroofing the woodshed, he spent an afternoon building a tool store behind the summer house, to store the items that we currently have in the dilapidated shed in the orchard. Much cursing could be heard as he worked, when it rapidly became clear that the quality of the flat-pack pieces were poor and nothing actually fitted together that well. Given his skill in building our library shelving, he could have done it better if he had designed it himself. Still, it was done in the end and is a vital precursor to us buying a new greenhouse, which will replace the shed.
There are other signs as well that the seasons are changing. The shops are full of daffodils, and I couldn’t resist buying some for the house, to keep us going until our own flower in the garden. The hydrangea has leaf buds on it and I am cautiously hopeful that it will thrive this year now I have moved the lemon balm which threatened to engulf it last year. The pampas grass flowers have seen us through the winter, but are now starting to look sorry for themselves, as the birds start to strip them for nesting material. I remember this from last year, when a flower could vanish before your eyes – the cats loved watching it from the window in the study as much as I did, although possibly not for the same reasons!
I am sure Winter hasn’t quite relinquished its hold on us yet but it feels like the end is in sight. We will know Spring has truly arrived when the frogs do, much to the delight of the Calamity Cat I am sure, who has missed her friends and still looks for them around the drystone wall from time to time. There is still much to do before we embark on a new growing season though. We have to clear the front garden in the same way as I have the back, re-lay the raised beds in the veg plot, and prepare for the coming of the greenhouse. The first early potatoes are chitting in egg boxes on the sideboard in the dining room and I need to check the seeds I collected at the end of last year, to make sure they are fit to be sown once the greenhouse has arrived. Perhaps there is some truth in what one of our neighbours said when he saw us hard at work on a sunny Sunday afternoon. “Are you out here again? Do you ever actually go into the house at all?” Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like it but we are loving it as much as ever.