Before the epic rain showers and hail that descended on us this afternoon, I managed a cup of coffee outside, and a pootle around the garden to take a few photos. There have been brief moments this week, when the sun was out, and the birds were busy and singing loudly, when it’s really felt like spring. We’re not quite there yet. When the wind gets up and the temperature drops, it feels very wintery again. But I can hear spring whispering!
I did a fair bit of cutting back and clearing up of winter debris on Sunday. I kept thinking I’d stop and head inside, as it got windier and chillier, but then I’d spot something I’d missed, or notice another job I could do. This is how gardeners lose themselves in a garden for hours! The kids spent most of the day outside too, playing with sticks and homemade kites, and hunting for bugs. They found a devil’s coach horse beetle, a lily beetle (erk!), bees, and even a grasshopper nymph. The critters are waking up, and it’s time to start making space for new growth in the borders.
So far, I’ve cut back all the deciduous grasses and ferns, pruned the shrub roses, cut down or pulled away dead growth on most of the herbaceous perennials, and hard-pruned the colourful, winter-stemmed cornus. Although I still haven’t touched the hydrangeas. I like their dried flowerheads, and they can wait a bit longer. I pulled up a fair few weeds – stray grass clumps, dandelions, nettles, Herb-Robert. The fact that these have started appearing is a good indicator that the garden has woken up from its winter sleep.
What’s so great about all this tidying up is that I can properly see the new flowers now. And there are lots of flowers to see. The hellebores are opening up. You need to gently lift their nodding heads up to take close look at their incredibly intricate centres. I believe plant breeders are trying to produce hellebores with more upwardly-facing flowers, but I rather like the fact that their beauty has to be deliberately sought out.
The early bulbs are up too; ranks of bright yellow, tete-a-tete daffodils in the borders and pots, and white, yellow and purple crocuses in the lawn. Pink flower clusters on the bergenias, zesty green euphorbia spikes, and two-tone, pink and purple pulmonaria flowers are brightening up the north and east-facing borders.
It’s been brilliant to look out of the windows over the last few days, even just for a few minutes at a time, and see so much life in the garden. I keep seeing things that delight me, and my garden feels very precious to me at the moment. I’ve seen a frog hopping through the bark at the back of the garden; grey squirrels running along the fence and up into the maple trees; blackbirds foraging madly in large groups, bickering and chasing each other about, and having very splashy baths in the tub pond. At one point today they actually seemed to be queuing up for a bath like drivers at a car wash!
A pair of great tits were checking out a nest box that I put up last summer, tucked away in some thick ivy. A wren has been darting about the borders and under the picnic bench. And the feeding station is constantly visited by blue tits, goldfinches, a robin, and even blackbirds that have worked out how to hang on to the wire cage around one of the feeders. And of course there are the more mundane, but still fun to watch, waddling wood pigeons, pretty collared doves, and the odd, raucous magpie.
Next weekend, I’ll begin tidying up the front garden. Then I can get on with the really fun spring garden jobs: lifting and dividing over-large perennials, to make new, free plants; moving plants that I’m not happy with to new positions; and planting out the young plants that I’ve been growing on in pots since last summer. I can’t wait!