March roared in at 90 mph and eventually departed at a more sedate 70 mph, a little more than a roaring lion and no sign of the lamb. Even the most resilient of my “daffs” were beaten to the ground, the emergent alliums were shredded and the scillas were wishing they’d never left Siberia. That was last month and at last we have some good weather. The later flowering narcissi (Narcissus canaliculatus , Narcissus triandrus Hawera, N. tazetta Minnow, N. triandrus Thalia, and N. bulbicodium) are all in full bloom and filling the garden with colour and perfume. More importantly, along with the Muscari, are providing food for the young queen bumblebees. Small tortoiseshell butterflies have also been busy in the garden although they seem to be more pre-occupied with courtship than sipping nectar. It is too early to tell, but I hope that the emergence of relatively large numbers of this lovely butterfly after winter their hibernation may indicate that the populations are at last starting to recover.
Hawera, Minnow and Thalia and N. canaliculatus grow and proliferate in the cottage garden, although this year the latter have not flowered as well as usual. I usually have a few pots of spring bulbs scattered around the garden in sheltered corners, and although the leaves look a little ragged they have flowered profusely. This year I had to leave my pots of N. bulbicodium outside and their tender grass-like leaves were shrivelled by the harsh winds, so I was delighted to find a few flowers in the largest pots. I now feel confident enough to plant some of my spare bulbs in the garden and hope that they will survive and naturalise.
As the April days lengthen the whooper swans leave for Iceland, barely visible in the early morning mist alerting me with a bugle of farewell so that I can wish them bon voyage. On clear days there is a flypast of geese, skein after skein like a fleet of arrows in a clear blue sky. Nature abhors a vacuum so as the geese leave, the first summer visitors arrive, meadow pipits, wagtails and wheatears, chasing and dashing around the croft like a noisy playground full of children.
The spring bulbs are like small beacons of light that are a signal for the garden to awake. They are tough enough to withstand the equinox gales, which can wither the tender early shoots of the herbaceous perennials. Beyond the garden wall, the native wild flowers sleep on, too wary to appear too early. I watch and wait, their time will come.
May approaches and the frilled mounds of the aquilegias are producing flower spikes as the fat shoots of the hostas unwind to reveal delicate leaves – pale green swirled with white or glaucous, crinkled and pleated. Amongst the vibrant shiny leaves of the astrantias stands of dead twigs are revealing tiny shoots – some of the verbascums and agastaches have survived. The despair of February is replaced by the joie de vivre of spring as the warmth of the sun resurrects the garden again.
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
– Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant
The flowers that bloom in the spring tra la…… 14 March was the 130th anniversary of the first performance of the Mikado.