It’s been a month of frantic activity in the garden. The last two weeks of March saw the children wearing shorts, we dined al fresco, dusting down the chairs and grabbing any cushions we could find. Our usual outdoor accessories were still carefully packed away, not quite ready to come out of hibernation.
Then April dawned, a fickle month if ever there was one. The temperature dropped, the heavens opened and the mutterings about “drought” and “totally out of sync weather” finally ceased. Only to be replaced by even more talk of abnormal meteorological conditions, climate change and global warming.
The heat that was so welcome dissipated. Suddenly we were plunged right back into winter. Rain turned to sleet, it was midday on Wednesday and I was driving, glancing at the dashboard I saw the temperature had dropped suddenly from an already cold 8 degrees celsius to 3! Hail stones hit the windscreen. I feared for the garden, for the farmers and the crops. I saw yesterday morning that many parts of France had plenty of fresh snow, there was a heavy frost in the north, of which we were fortunately spared. As I said, April does tend to have a capricious climate.
However, the warm winds of March and the long hours of sunshine have brought spring on apace. The lavender is in flower,
and leaves are unfurling all around.
The blossom is fading in our garden. The cherry makes my mouth water just to look at it and the plum trees are already heavy with young fruit.
Wallflowers add a welcoming splash of colour.
The iris are so nearly in bloom
and the poppies are already past their best.
The campanula thrives in tiny nooks and crannies. This year I have planted a couple of new ones in holes in old stones and hope it will spread rampantly.
The Virginia creeper which clings to the stone walls around our guest cottage is coming to life and the mock orange is covered in the most fragrant white flowers.
But undoubtedly the bluebells and wisteria steal the show.
The Spanish bluebells are in fact an invasive species and their introduction is often hugely despised. But for all their faults I cannot dislike them. They grow in abundance in our garden, but they are kept in control, they thrive against west facing walls.
Our purple wisteria has been in flower for a couple of weeks now, but we have a second white variety which flowers much later. It makes a perfect canopy outside the summer kitchen, where incidentally our stone statue has found a permanent home.
Hollyhocks grow like weeds here, they self seed all over the place and every year I earmark the new seedlings and then forget where they are and mow over them. This year I am determined to make amends, I have carefully weeded around all of the little plants and then surrounded them with a mini fence, they should be safe from the mower’s blades, the strimmer’s wire and the tread of feet this year.
The vines are looking healthy and the potager is taking shape. New potatoes are in the ground and carrots have been sown. Our rake seemed to suffer a major blow during the winter and I found myself on my hands and knees preparing the seed bed. Having dug out any weeds and loosened all the soil, I crumbled every clump in my hands, making a fine tilth. It felt so good to feel the earth between my fingers, completely back to basics and incredibly satisfying. Using a rake is hardly hi-tech gardening, but without one I felt connected to the land like never before. I know it might sound strange but it really was the most fulfilling evening.
We have finally found a way to move some of the stone around the garden. With the help of a friend, and his small petrol driven garden fork-lift, we have been able to use these huge abandoned pieces which were previously just too heavy and too huge for us to do anything with. These huge slabs are going to form a low stone table and bench at the end of the vegetable garden.
This morning another dream came to fruition. A garden bench by the pond. A place where everyone tends to stand for ages watching the aquatic life. Bulging eyes of amphibians goggle back at us from wherever they are precariously perched. It’s a battle of nerves, a staring competition, as we eyeball each other, you blink you lose, one twitch from a human will be followed by a splash as a frog disappears under the water. Now I hope this will become a seat where we waste far too much time. It still needs scrubbing down but it is in situ and I couldn’t be happier.
Spring this year came in like a lamb and now it is roaring like a lion. But nothing can hold back the force of nature, new growth is all around, new life, new hopes, new beginnings. This really has to be one of my favourite times of the year.