Wednesday, 21 March 2012


As the year and seasons change, we often focus on the visual indicators of these changes; the first flowers or blossom, the sun rising higher each day and setting later each evening, the average temperatures rising, and later in the year, the leaf colours changing hue and falling from their summer heights. But take a moment to shut your eyes, listen, can you tell the season by what you hear? Chiffchaffs arriving in spring are often first noticed through their characteristic call, the sound of swallows twittering over cornfields and skylarks soaring high in the sky singing all the while almost seem to be formed out of summer sunshine, the song of a robin in the glow of a lamp-post on a snowy evening brings festive cheer  to passers by. This week, blackbird song has been an almost constant sound in my garden, particularly strong in the morning and evening. The spirit-lifting sound inspired me to write the following poem.

Oh Blackbird, high in the greening tree
Do you know how sweet your song does sound to me?
Do you comprehend the joy you bring
when you gleefully utter those liquid notes
that announce the arrival of beautiful spring?
Oh Blackbird, beyond my open window,
at dusk you are my lullaby you know,
and in the morning you coax me away
from the sacred realms of sleep,
to dare to hope, to love, to laugh,
to make the most of each brand new day.
Oh Blackbird, I ask you, will you stay
and be the soundtrack of my summer days?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Joys of Gardening

It has been a week of foggy mornings and bright afternoons. The combination of dampness and increasingly warm sunshine has triggered a flurry of growth in the garden. 

Some weekend days of blue skies have tempted me to venture out of the back door, to prune and  trim, weed, split and separate, to plant and sow, water, rake and mow and generally give the garden plants a bit of tender loving care. There are buds in the cowslips and shoots on the roses, the primroses are flowering and the Lung-wort's pink and purple blooms are buzzing with early bumble bees. Each time I move a flower pot, worms of various sizes wiggle in shock at the sudden exposure and woodlice and earwigs scurry to safety. Ladybirds' red and black wing-cases gleam in the sunshine as they bask on sun-drenched leaves or explore the early blooms. A few repairs were needed to my raised-bed but this doesn't seem to have affected the tulips that are planted in its earthy depths. Their green leathery leaf growth holds the promise of flowers to come. I think my favourite flower of those in bloom at the moment has to the the anemones that I planted this weekend. I think I prefer their other name; Wind-flowers, as their starry white flowers on slender stems really do seem to dance in the breeze. 

Whilst in the gardening mood and in search of a little inspiration after a disappointing result from my latest round of job applications, I visited the local West Dean Gardens and spent a glorious afternoon wandering around the walled garden and glasshouses, and wider expanse of formal gardens, topped off with a pot of tea and a slice of cake in the lovely cafe. The vegetable beds were neatly raked ready for sowing and planting out, the soft fruit pruned and the orchard trees stood patiently soaking up the sun. Around the trees' roots primroses and daisies peeked out of the grass. Soon snakes-head fritillary, cowslip and all sorts of meadow and woodland-edge flowers will jostle for space beneath apple and pear blossom, between square-clipped box hedges. Comical parties of jackdaws chattered overhead, blue tits investigated possible nest sites, and the gardener's cat lay snoozing in one of the old Victorian greenhouses, warming it's fur in the shaft of sun that streamed through the cobwebbed glass.
Lucky old thing.