After a season of sad farewells, spring is marching inexorably onwards, reminding us that in the midst of death we are in life.
Snowdrops are standing brilliant white against the brown earth, crocus flames are lighting up the ragged grass, hellebores are modestly hiding their beauty beneath their downcast purple heads. Winter-flowering shrub honeysuckle is spreading its exquisite scent beside the shed and even lungwort is flowering in its pinky-bluey tones.
The first daffodils are just about to burst their buds, but primroses and primulas have beaten them to it. The first camellias are out too, and the twisted stems of the corkscrew hazel are alive with catkins. The furry buds of magnolia stellata are full of promise against the brown wood of the shed.
False spring this may be, with another blast of winter set to hit, but it’s a joy to see such signs of life after a long winter.
The birds are falling for it too: blackbirds, blue tits and jackdaws have all been spotted preparing their family quarters. Great tits and finches are calling from nearby trees. In the woods the birdsong has reached orchestral levels.
And there’s nothing like a bit of spring sunshine to get the season’s gardening under way. On Tuesday I worked til dusk chopping back the huge willow branches sprouting from the arch (recklessly planted at the end of the garden when I imagined a romantic green arbour rather than a lifetime of lopping). The sun went down in a rose-streaked sky and a fox came sniffing into the field.
Rose-pruning has been equally satisfying – Félicité Perpétué (another reckless planting choice) has been brought back to some sort of order, and Albéric Barbier, sharing its quarters on the aforementioned willow arch, has been tamed for another season. This is the most precious rose I own, a cutting from my mother’s garden, where its pinkish buds and creamy white ruffled flowers enchanted me long before I had my own garden to plant one in.
General tidying has begun – seedheads are best left until spring so the birds can take their pick, but I must confess to restoring a bit of order. It’s also fascinating to see what plants have survived the onslaught of winter, and just wandering round is a delight, reminding oneself of lost friends and things that you’d forgotten even planting.
Spring proper may not be here yet, but the promise of life is written across the frosted ground.