I am itching to get on with spring, but Mother Nature seems to have other ideas. I’m planning which vegetables we will grow this year, dreaming of picking tomatoes warm and ripe from the sun and peas and beans, peppers and aubergines. I’m quite desperate to get out into the flower borders too and put some new ideas into action – alas, so far I’ve really been reduced to writing down my thoughts on paper. This typically involves lying in bed while I imagine the end result, which I then realise “won’t work” when I come downstairs in the cold light of dawn to stare out of the window through the sheets of rain; with my plans scuppered, I have to come up with other arrangements, and although I am no artist, I have most definitely now learnt to appreciate the benefits of taking photos and sketching diagrams on paper!
I have come to realise that the pair of palms we planted when we first moved here are in the wrong place, and the wide bed by the house needs a complete overhaul. Originally it held nothing but three hibiscus peeking out from behind a row of low-cut lime trees which formed some sort of straggling hedge. We took the latter out immediately as they blocked all light to the summer kitchen and then planted lavender, rosemary, lilies and the aforementioned palm trees. A few years in it is time to take stock, as things have grown so much and we need to make a few changes. I need to add some height at the back of the bed and I think the addition of some alliums and gladioli should do the trick. A tip I learnt with gladioli is to plant these 15 or so at a time at two-weekly intervals during spring; this ensures there will be flowers from mid-summer until mid-autumn. And I have to add some Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia); some people think it is rather common but that doesn’t put me off as I love it’s simplicity. Plus it wins a whole-hearted vote of approval from Roddy as his insects love it too. It grows like a weed here and it flowers very reliably. In fact I think it is a rather romantic plant that sways proudly in the breeze and flowers all summer long.
Back to my plans…..when the rain stops and the sun makes a valiant attempt at playing hide-and-seek for a few minutes I dash outside, dropping whatever work I am doing to view things from a different angle, hoping to sort something out in my mind before I get soaked once more and usually getting distracted by a few more spring flowers.
The weather is the top of everyone’s conversation it seems right now, and if it isn’t where YOU are, then you are lucky – here it’s all anyone can talk about. We’ve had what many are describing as the worst winter they have ever known, with so much cold and rain. The local asparagus growers are struggling in particular as the inclement weather means the crop this year will be greatly diminished.
Perhaps this means we are in for a wonderful long summer (I murmur to myself as I potter amongst the primroses); I’m certainly clinging to the thought. The chickens have spent far too much time huddling under trees, pecking at rotting leaves. But when the sun comes out though they fluff up contentedly and they cannot be missed.
“Move over, it’s my turn!” …… Amy – our little white Pekin Bantam – may be small but she is definitely in charge!
Still, the mercury is rising, and I am fairly sure that here, close to the coast, the risk of any more frosts has passed; but although it’s no longer cold we don’t seem to have the usual hours of sunshine. But hey, let’s be optimistic, ‘April showers bring forth May flowers’.
Weeds are emerging and if weeds are growing then so too is everything else.
The roadsides are strewn with wild flowers and dandelions seem to outnumber all the rest. In French they are called pissenlit, which translates to ‘piss in bed’; this literal translation of the name actually comes from the fact that the plant is an ancient herbal diuretic, but it still does not stop all French children giggling at this. They say that if you pick one and hold it, you will piss en lit! They tend to get picked and thrown around the playground with no one wanting to be caught holding one!
Fortunately, there are no dandelions in the garden, and I was finally able to mow once again last Monday, after which I scarified the lawn – thick with moss from the damp conditions. Afterwards I scattered new grass-seed in the bare patches, and thought that at least I won’t have to worry about it drying out!
And in case we needed reminding that we are already into the fourth month of the year, we’ve already seen our first hoopoe and yesterday afternoon we heard a cuckoo calling for hours, announcing its arrival back from Africa for the spring season.
Wallflowers and ferns grow like weeds everywhere out of cracks in walls, beside houses, in gutters, wherever their seeds have fallen in a scrap of soil. In case you are wondering the ‘AV’ sign below stands for ‘À Vendre‘; this super cute little cottage is actually bigger than it looks and is in a nearby village, I’m trying to find an excuse to go and have a look around!
Back on home soil, our Spanish bluebells are out in force
the cherry blossom is magnificent
and the horse chestnut and hazel are coming into leaf. The euphorbia and kerria are flowering
and yet it still feels a little more like winter than spring. I’ve swapped my boots for shoes, more out of a desire for change than necessity, but I haven’t been quite brave enough to put my scarves away just yet.
Yesterday was a day of intermittent heavy showers and high winds. Driving along I felt as if I had been taken back in time to January or February.
I very much appreciated the brave attempt of this magnolia to cheer us all up.
One minute all was grey with clouds hurrying past in a frantic rush overhead, changing the sky to an ominous colour with the imminent threat of a downpour,
and the next I turned to look eastwards and was greeted by the clearest blue. It was quite bizarre, I had not moved more than a foot.
Still under blue skies for a few minutes longer I had time to admire the Gothic church in St Just de Luzac, a small village with a population of around 1500 inhabitants. The church was built in the 15th century on the site of a former church constructed in the 11th century and it has some of the thickest walls of any church in our region.
The stonework around the window in the house opposite also dates from around the 15th century and never ceases to fascinate me.
Everywhere I turned in St Just flowers were making a valiant attempt to defy the weather.
As I walked the dogs in our own village later yesterday evening, I even spotted the first iris of the season in bloom.
Then I found a patch of grass with some daisies crying out for children to sit and make chains.
And then this morning we awoke to this
The meteo says brilliant sunshine all day with temperatures maybe reaching 20C – dare I say ‘it looks good’, will that jinx it? I pray it won’t. I want to get out there, I want to feel the soil on my bare hands and under my nails, I want to fully welcome Spring!