And then, as if by magic, the sun came out. It suddenly seems unbelievable that I was fearing winter would never end but a week ago. Even though there is still a chill in the air, the sunshine has a touch of warmth in it and I can feel my whole being responding to it, turning my face to it with appreciation in much the same way as the primroses which have bravely survived the past few cold and bleak months to bring us a touch of colour and comfort. Day by day, the mornings are getting lighter and dusk is arriving a precious few minutes later. Even the overnight rain is welcome – the lawn is greening up already and the water butts are full, waiting to come into their own in the spring and early summer.
The cats are still wary of the great outdoors. “Are you sure that cold, wet, white stuff has gone?” they ask as I open the door. They sniff the air anxiously, assessing what to expect when they finally take the first cautious step across the threshold. Once they are outside, though, it has been noticeable over the past few days that they are staying out a little longer. The Calamity Cat particularly enjoyed the sunshine as much as I did, lying out on the patio table to fully absorb as much heat as she could. Once the sun went in, though, she was soon back in her usual place snuggled by the radiator.
Inevitably as our thoughts turn to spring, they also turn to the garden. Bulbs are starting to appear and our first snowdrops are in bud. I am delighted to see them, partly because I love their delicate beauty and message of hope, but also because I divided them and moved some from front to back last year and I was worried that they would suffer as a result of my inexperience. The rhubarb is starting to peep above the earth already and there is new growth on the roses and on the lilac gifted to us last year by friends. Yet again, nature has shown me that there is much to look forward to, however long the winter feels. There is a feeling of anticipation, of the excitement of new life being just around the corner.
Emboldened by what the garden was telling me, I spent an hour in the greenhouse at the weekend, potting on the seedlings which have been overwintering there, grown from seeds I gathered at the end of last summer. Foxgloves, poppies and sweet peas are jostling for space, rubbing shoulders with the onions, garlic and strawberry plants we also have in there waiting to be planted out in warmer times. I have discovered potting seedlings is incredibly satisfying – totally absorbing, suppressing the mental chatter which still takes over from time to time.
Indoors, the planning for the coming season continues. The flower garden has been measured and we have agreed to start our changes with the area known to us as the Frog Patch, as it is where Calamity kept finding frogs during our first summer here. It is actually a large raised bed, bordered by a curved dry stone wall and containing lots of geranium ground cover as well as the buddleia and a rather attractive hebe. We aren’t neglecting the kitchen garden, though – we have gathered together our seed packets and, mindful of the need to rotate our crops, we are making plans for our beds. We still have leeks, sprouts, garlic and even a few carrots in the ground, which should see us through to spring, when we can start afresh with a new season.
I can’t wait to get started.