There’s nothing like the first week of spring. The winter just gone wasn’t as harsh as the previous two, but it was wet, and when I say wet, I mean driving, ceaseless, unrelenting rain, day after day, week after week, the wettest anyone can remember, the wettest on record.
During the deluge, I feared my bulbs would drown in the saturated mud. It seemed implausible that anything could survive. Anything, that is, apart from the frog who had temporarily made its home in the milk urn in the back garden (we freed it, in case you were concerned).
The bulbs survived, but the first flowers of spring – daffodil, cowslip, primrose – usually so cheerful and child-like, looked decidedly glum, faces down, as though they wished they hadn’t bothered. I almost felt sorry for them.
But this week, the sun returned. The village recreation field – or bog, as it had become – began to dry out and flush with a spattering of daisies; the new growth on the willow trees made them look from a distance as though they’d been dusted with apple-green powder. The greenhouse steamed up in the afternoon sun. We planted more seeds: leeks and brussel sprouts, ‘yellow stuffer’ and ‘black russian’ tomatoes, ‘goldana’ cougettes and more ‘titan’ and red ‘evening sun’ sunflowers (you can’t have too many sunflowers, we reasoned). We only stopped because we ran out of seeding compost.
On Sunday, the first Sunday of spring, we spent some time on the allotment. Fine clouds shaped like the hulls of ships seen from below rode overhead and Myla sat inspecting weeds and rocks and ladybirds on the newly dried earth as we discussed plans. The plot we’ve inherited has been left tidy and is pretty much a blank slate: we’ll keep the established raspberry canes, of which there are plenty, as well as the rhubarb and the goji berry tree – but the rest is ours to dream on and make happen.
Our wish list is ambitious: decking, raised beds, a lawn area, a polytunnel or greenhouse, a willow wendy house for Myla (OK, and us) and lots and lots of organic fruits and vegetables. Herbs and flowers too, although I have the courtyard garden at home for those. It may not all happen this year – but the possibilities are there, lurking in the magical space between dreams and the earth and the sky which we call a garden.
As we left, I spotted a monarch sunning its wings on a leaf. The rains, for now, are gone. I’ll take it as a good omen.