Even though it happens each year without fail, I willingly forget the surprise of spring. So it can, like, spring it on you.
You plant bulbs in the autumn and think you know exactly where you placed them, but the moment you turn your back they wriggle a metre from where you left them. They’re all nudging one another and giggling, under the ground. I have sympathy for squirrels when I see them neurotically running from one spot to another, digging, coming up empty-handed, scratching their heads, and berating themselves for being so flaky.
The most useful thing about horticultural grit is not to provide drainage for tulip bulbs, but to alert me, when I sink my spade into the soil, that if I come across a seam of grit, this is where I buried my bulbs.
I grew a gorgeous display of tulips in my raised bed for two years in a row. There was the white daffodil ‘Thalia’, with purple, red and white tulips, ‘Purple Peony’, ‘Abba’ and ‘Spring Green’ and the rather marvellous broken tulip, ‘Rem’s Favourite’ (white with inky purple feathering). But then I was worried about the dryness of the soil for my dahlias, and tulips tend to deplete after a couple of years. So last June, when they finished flowering, I thought I had forked them all out. But no, there are at least twenty little sprigs poking their beaks through the compost as we speak. I love a tenacious tulip.
Here are some of my favourite little crowns of unfurling foliage. First, the perfect coiled little cabbage-like aquilegia. They are like green peonies. And it is very obliging of them to hold the raindrops in pearly globes whilst I took their photo.
Lupins would like to point out that they too are very good at cupping great globules of water, in their blown-out umbrellas of leaves. I would grow lupins just for this, never mind the great flower-spikes to come.
The hairy fronds of oriental poppies are also thrusting upwards. I love the nonchalance of the poppies. They are the most sumptuously silken of flowers, but with creased skirts (they, like me, can’t be bothered with ironing). Each bloom has a dark ink-splat at the centre, as if they had been pelting one another at the back of the class. Then there are their great hairy stems: these girls don’t feel the need to shave their legs.
This is all about determination, resilience, bouncing back again and again, whatever the weather. It’s snowing (IT’S SNOWING!!!) but these warrior plants will be just fine.
I found some felled crocuses (I suspect the frantic squirrels, having a meltdown), so brought them inside to enjoy. Don’t they look lovely adorning this egg-cup bunny? She looks like she’s wearing a swimming cap. They opened out and the petals turned back to make hexagons. I love flower-maths, and crocuses, like snowdrops, do everything in threes. Three guard-petals, three inner-petals, three anthers, three stigmas.
That’s when they were first brought in. Then later:
And (sigh) now. A mere two days later. A little drunken and dishevelled. But look at the satin, almost metallic sheen of the petals.
What is unfurling in your garden? Do leave a comment. And if you want to receive an email each time I post, click the ‘follow’ button and enter your email address. This won’t spam you with anything else, I promise.