Only last weekend I could feel the anticipation of Spring really being on its way but today, as I type, it is dark and grey. There is a constant stream of heavy drizzle and it is cold and windy. Only yesterday I dug my woolley hat back out of the drawer.
February is traditionally a gloomy month but just occasionally it teases with glimpses of something better to come … just around the corner. Last Sunday I saw the first daffodils in flower as I drove to church. When I returned to do the ironing, I was distracted by the sight of a pair of magpies starting to build their nest. Interestingly they were attacking one of the squirrel dreys that I wrote about last month, clearly viewing it as an easy target. Time and time again they visited to wrestle already prepared twigs from between the branches and then flew off to wherever their construction site is located. Today there is no sign of them.
Outside the backdoor it’s not entirely bleak. There are splashes of colour and flower to cheer both sight and smell. Next to the patio, the winter flowering honeysuckle is now covered in sweet scented blooms and its lemony fragrance wafts into the house provided, of course, you are brave enough to open the door and let in the cold wintery air! Various winter flowering clematis are covered in bells, some flushed with burgundy, others creamy white. When the sun has deigned to come out, these have been a magnet for bees. In the border the viburnum is sporting rosy clusters of pink blossom which is complemented by the pinky shades of tiny long-tailed tits who are flitting around the fat balls hanging in the nearby cherry. The viburnum would also smell nice if I donned my gardening boots and fleece and trekked across the muddy grass to give it a sniff. However, the outdoors could not look less enticing right now!
Plants generally start growing when the temperature reaches about 5o centigrade, which is why I am surprised to see that my bulbs have definitely grown this week. The pot of miniature iris reticulata have suddenly burst into flower! I can also now see just how much the squirrel disturbed them as they are now all on one side of the pot! There are signs of crocus beneath the hawthorn but they are being shy in the gloom. Earlier in the week they were open.
Elsewhere daffodil leaves are forcing their way upwards. At this point my daffodils always look healthy and robust but, rather annoyingly, when they come to flower, I often discover that the bulbs have been eaten by something and I only get half a ragged trumpet!
Gardening emails are now exhorting us keen gardeners to get ready for Spring and Summer. It’s time to be pruning and, more importantly, to be sowing. The thought, however, of standing outside with compost and seed trays in the drizzle does not appeal! But if I am to have any crops this year, it’s time to think seriously about what they might be and at least to buy some fresh seed packets. Tomatoes, which will come indoors to germinate, need to be sown by the middle of March at the latest. At least by then I am hoping that they can sit in their usual place in the study which, due to decorating and new carpet, has been piled high for the past few weeks with the contents of various cupboards and shelves. Seed potatoes also need to be bought and chitting started – that odd process of leaving them somewhere in the light and cool (but not freezing!) to generate the long purple shoots that eventually help them to produce the crop. At some point we need to brave it outside the backdoor to a garden centre to gain some inspiration and get all of this underway.
Right now I feel more like hibernating. Even Bryggen, the most outdoorsy of our cats, has come skidding back into the house, slipping on a wet patio as he cornered too quickly! Finna, the heat-seeker, is curled up on top of the hot water tank, echoing what most of us probably feel like doing now!