Sunday, 18 February 2007

February 2007 - A Doxology

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

This morning Susanna and I breakfasted on poached eggs with asparagus! Not a lot of asparagus – just three fat spears, more white than green – but taken from our own poly-tunnel, coarsely chopped, gently stewed in a little butter, and poured over the eggs and toast. A blessing indeed, a taste of heaven!

There is warmth already in the sun: it is as if the morning’s hoarfrost had never been. Tiny shocking-pink flowers of Cyclamen coum glow under the espalier pears.

Down the avenue, Crocus x luteus flares sodium-orange in the sun, and further on the little species Crocus chrysanthus looks like cream spilt over the short grass. The clumps are bulking-up well, but do not seem to be spreading as I hoped. Looking closely, the delicate petals are torn and eaten, no doubt by slugs that also eat the seed capsules. I suppose I must help nature along by planting more corms to achieve a really big display.

Clumps of Lenten roses, Helleborus orientalis, in mixed shades of white and pink and burgandy, started from seed by Susanna, glow under the young trees and shrubs along the wilderness path. Years ago a friend gave me a seedling plant of Stinking helebore, Helleborus foetidus. Its unusual cymes of acid-green flowers are starting to open, and there are several seedlings from last year around it, which will give me plants to swell the display and pass on in turn to other friends.

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

I turn to look for signs of creatures here below. I look under a garden ornament, and sure enough there are the slugs and snails that have been at the crocuses, and a centipede too. No doubt they add their praises to mine in their own way. But part of me wishes they didn’t!

The fox’s path by the hedge is looking rather overgrown. I’ve not seen him since the New Year’s Day hunt passed close by, but I heard nothing of a kill. The garden hare too is nowhere to be seen, but I did put him up from the black-currant patch a little while ago. I pray they are both in a position to praise their maker.

But what I do find is five-spot ladybirds on the young pines, where they have emerged from their crevices to bask in the sun. Their red colour is a warning sign to anyone thinking to eat them, but to my eyes is also a joyful hymn of praise.

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;

Whatever about the creatures below, the heavenly host are certainly loud. It sounds as if every small finch and tit in the County has chosen this garden for You’re-a-star auditions! The racket is unbelievable, but lifts the spirit like few other things can. With the onset of the hard frost, Susanna has started to feed them with bird seed and lard balls, which perhaps explains why there are so many. But at this time of year I’m sure the words of their song are: ‘Here I am! I’m fit and healthy! We can make beautiful babies together!’

With country all around us, we are so lucky to see and hear so many varieties of the heavenly host. Yesterday at dusk the great armada of rooks flew over, returning to their roost from a day’s foraging, calling the gossip back and forth to each other. And drifting across the fields came the indescribably sad call of a curlew.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.