Perhaps it is just psychological, but the arrival of British summer time last weekend, and the subsequent lengthening of the evenings, has brought about a change in the garden. For weeks we have felt the pressure building, waiting for the opportunity to burst forth, and the (seemingly) longer days combined with (relatively) mild temperatures has brought the garden on in leaps and bounds.
March is a pivotal point of the year. When it starts we are still just emerging from the winter, but as it ends we are clearly entering a new phase of the year and the mild, showery weather is perfect for kick-starting dormant plants into action. We are now at the top of the hill, and the brakes have been released, sending us careering headlong into the spring at a frantic pace.
The trumpets of daffodils raise their song to a triumphant fanfare, heralding the arrival of life once again in the garden. The branches are decorated with swollen, green buds, ready to explode with life and turn the bare stems verdant almost overnight. The hedgerows are transformed in to highways full of birds, desperately trying to collect nesting material to construct a home fit to raise their young in. The pond is filled with the chorus of frogs, and the spawn begins to multiply like pearls of bubble bath on the margins of the water.
Work in the garden steps up a gear and the accelerated growth cycle means weeding can become a daily chore. The grass, which has seemed decidedly nonchalant for the past few months, now starts to growing at an astonishing rate and will need regularly ‘grazing’ with the mower to prevent it reverting to a meadow. The kitchen garden becomes a hive of activity as the cycle of sowing and planting speeds up and early crops of salad, peas and broad beans get tantalisingly closer.
The feeling of new life and new beginnings is bristling throughout the garden. Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, the garden is changing daily, and slowly unfurling its wings, ready to take flight.
Whilst I am filled with a sense of optimism and positivity at the return of life to the garden again, and in amazement at this ‘reawakening’, I also begin to feel a bit anxious and a slight hint of panic begins to set in. The initial excitement will pass and the critical timing of everything will again take precedence – Have I sown this too early? Is it too late to plant this? Have these plants been hardened off enough to plant out? Many of the young, sap-filled shoots will not make it to adulthood as they are devoured by hordes of ravenous gastropods, or sucked dry by vampire-like aphids. My ‘to-do’ list starts extends much faster at the bottom than jobs can be ticked off the top, and it is inevitable that, if things are to be done in order of priority, a few of these may end up waiting until the pace has slowed somewhat. For one moment everything is full with promise, but I am filled with a sense that this just the calm before the storm.
The old oak tree stands calm and sentinel over the garden, allowing all of the minor players in this drama their moment in the limelight before it will don its summer coat and cast everything within the reach of its gnarled and meandering limbs deep into the shade.