One of the things that I really like about the British seasons is how suddenly everything can change. Not so much when the weather turns cold and wet after days of sunshine, but how the countryside can turn leafy and green practically overnight. Every year, it makes me wonder how I missed the leaves unfurling on the trees or the buds on the flower stems, even though I know that I have been watching carefully each time the dog and I venture outside.
It seemed like only a day or two ago you could see the bare branches of the trees along this path …
and this one is now flanked by bluebells, scattered as far as the eye can see. I love bluebells; no doubt I read too many Enid Blytonas a child as they always make me think of fairies and other magical creatures!
The candles have appeared on the horse chestnut trees. Usually they’re high up in the branches but this one was low enough for me to get up close to. It’s a pretty flower, and it seems almost impossible to believe that in a few months’ time it will become the prickly case containing conkers.
Mr and Mrs Swan have a new family. I was sad to see last year’s cygnets go, but now there’s a new group to watch growing up. At the moment, there are seven cygnets. “At the moment”, sadly, because not all of them might make it to adult-hood; according to The Swan Sanctuary’swebsite, cygnets are in danger from crows, herons, magpies, turtles, pike, large perch, foxes and mink. It’s no wonder that Mr and Mrs Swan are on constant alert.
The house martins are back. All of a sudden, there they all, wittering and twittering on the power lines as if they’d never been away. I’m glad they’re back. I miss their constant chattering and seeing them swoop across the gardens and the fields. I’ve often wondered if the creators of Twitter had house martins in mind when they named their company!
Look closely – can you see? Tadpoles! This is the best picture I could get in the circumstances – a friend’s dog spotted us by the pond and came charging over to greet us. I had to abandon my photography quickly otherwise there’s a good chance I’d have ended up in the water with them!
Back in the garden, everything’s moving on apace. This happens to me every year – I think I’m in control and suddenly – whoosh! – a few days of sunshine and the plants shoot up! These are my seedlings, now desperate for planting out. I really must get around to this over the weekend if I can; they’re drying out too quickly in their cell trays and I don’t want to lose them.
The lettuce that I grew last year (and didn’t particularly like) has returned to haunt me. It’s everywhere! It’s in the raised beds that I still haven’t finished clearing. It’s between the raised beds. It’s between the flag stones of the path. I have no idea how I have ended up with a lettuce invasion as I certainly didn’t go flinging the seeds about willy-nilly and I’m pretty certain that I didn’t let it go to seed. Never mind, it’s soon pulled up (or eaten) when I put my mind to it.
This lush greenery in my raised bed is also here without an invitation. Now, this is my fault. These are teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) and I love their prickly seed heads and leaves which form little cups to store water for birds to drink. I’ve wanted to grow teasels for years and I’ve really struggled to grow them from seed. They’re biennials, which means that they form leaves in the first year and flowers in the second year before dying off, so if you want a continuous run of them year after year, you have to time your sowings. Mine just haven’t wanted to grow from seed at all – until now! I managed to get a couple of plants two years ago and in the autumn, I shredded the dead heads and put them in the compost, completely ignoring my own (and my Dad’s) advice not to compost seed heads. The compost didn’t heat up enough to kill the seeds, I put the compost in my raised bed and now it’s full of teasels which I didn’t intentionally sow but are beautifully healthy. I can’t bring myself to just dig them up so I’m planning to move them. I’ve been planning for a while now and really must stop planning and get on with it!
What else? Welsh poppies in shades of orange and yellow …
bluebells in shades of blue and white …
Aquilegia in various shades and varieties … I sowed a packet of “mixed varieties” seeds one year and these did germinate. Every spring my garden is full of Aquilegia in beautiful colours and many different varieties. They’re different every year as the bees mix the pollens and create hybrids. I love the haphazard self-seeded untidiness of it all. Not for me the perfect bedding plant border (although sometimes I can see the attraction!); I like to see what nature can do for herself.
Early snapdragons (Antirrhinum). Do you know how to make them “roar”, squeezing the flower heads gently at the side? My girls used to roar with laughter at them when they were small, spending ages going from plant to plant to squeeze the flowers, with me constantly reminding them to be gentle. Even now, big daughter remembers how to make a snapdragon roar. I like that.
Finally, my favourites. Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale). I have lots of these in my garden, in so many shades from salmon pink to deep purple. I love the fuzzy, prickly leaves, and the large hairy buds, just waiting for a sunny day to open and let the papery petals inside unfurl in the sunshine.
Summer isn’t far away. And as much as I’m a winter girl, I really do love this time of year.