Saturday, 23 February 2008

A brisk Spring walk

Only a few days ago we were back in winter’s grip, with freezing fog decorating everything with hoary rime. But at last its spell has been broken, and I seem to have woken from hibernation to begin putting manners on the untidy garden, which I have so neglected since November.

I’ve started to push back the hedges and shrubberies, though much still needs to be done. Glyphosate has been applied to the overgrown vegetable garden, which I didn’t cultivate last year, in readiness for digging and rotivating. If I’d tackled these jobs when they should have been done they would only have been half the work! The mower hospital has fixed the broken clutch cable and sharpened the blunted blades, and as soon as I collected the machine yesterday I made a start on the main paths and the croquet lawn.

The later purple and white crocuses are making a fine splash down the lime alley, though the slightly earlier yellow ones were a disappointment this year. When I checked, I found most of the new leaves and buds had been eaten down to the ground. My suspicions were confirmed ten days ago when I spotted the resident hare grazing where they should be. And I suspect he has barked one of the young walnut trees, given us by a friend who grew them from seed. It and its twin are now protected with ugly curly plastic guards, but I fear the barked one may be a goner. The hare has made a form among the Verbena bonariensis seedlings in one of the yew beds. He (or she – I can’t sex a hare at a distance!) gives Susannah and me so much pleasure that we don’t mind putting up with the little damage he does. I also notice that one of the limes in the alley has been used as a scratching post, and some species tulips I planted in the wild-flower meadow have been grubbed up: I’ve never heard of hares grubbing in grass, so perhaps this was done by a visiting badger – I have been told of a sett not far from here - I rather hope so!

Yesterday Susannah came rushing in from feeding her birds in great excitement: she had found a big mass of frog-spawn in the small pond on the patio. We have had frogs in the garden since we came here, and when I strim the wild-flower meadow in autumn I always dread the occasional splat as one gets in the way, but we have never had spawn before. When I went out to look I could only see the one frog in the pond, a female I think by its size. I do hope at least one male had been there earlier to fertilise the eggs, so that we will have tadpoles! Susannah’s birds must be the best fed in the county, and have been entertaining us all winter from the kitchen window. This morning I was delighted to see a charm of goldfinches. They were feeding on peanuts, which is unusual because they are specialist seed eaters, and we rarely see them on the bird table.

Spring started in January like a toddler, but has already moved into a brisk walk. The snowdrops are almost over, I can see the daffodils nodding as I write, Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum) is in full blow, and the Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ by the front door has bright pink flowers on bare wood – the latter is badly named I think, because for us at least it never flowers in autumn. Spring will be racing around like a ten-year-old by Easter!

Easter is so early this year, March 23rd, before my birthday which is unusual. I was born on Easter day. According to my mother, God bless her, I caused the nuns tending her to miss Mass, and I’ve been a trouble ever since! In fact Easter will not fall on March 23rd again until long after my death in 2160. The earliest day Easter can possibly be is March 22nd, which last occurred in 1818, and will not do so again until 2285. Easter will be very special this year!

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