We wanted to find hellebores for you for our class present, she said. But there weren’t any in the shops then. So here is one from my garden. This is how February began: with the arrival of winter flowers in a pot. We had a big fire in the fireplace that day. Earlier that week it had snown and the arborist had come to cut the knotwilgen. He stood in the trees and the branches fell around them, and at the end of the day it looked like straight-line winds had come through. Apparently the trees will regrow by summer already, so it won’t look so bare.
Now we are busy with cleaning up the branches, chopping the large pieces into logs for the fire after they cure. The small branches will be kindling or mulch. Jonathan also trimmed the shrubs around the perimeter of the land, and the trimmings will be mulch, too.
One Saturday, he built this raised bed. We will plant squashes and pumpkins in it and let them run around. It has sun all day long. Next to it is an apple tree that Harumi and Jon helped us plant in November, and a pile of logs waiting to be split and stacked.
There is a male pheasant here who has gotten very comfortable with us. He walks up and sits by the window for long periods, or even comes over to see what’s going on when we work outside. No pictures here, but it is really a pleasure to get to see him all the time. I came across the female once when I was walking through the meadows, and she was not happy about that. So I’ve been staying out of them and hoping that they will nest here (but maybe not in the meadows, which have to be cleared and planted soon).
The ponies are out of the paddock, eating the grass, which is starting to grow. The winter was colder here this year than last (a good number of days with hard freezes; a few days with snow, although never with significant accumulation), but it’s still a maritime-ish climate.
Also starting to grow: snowdrops (first one spotted in early February), other bulbs (volunteer tulips; daffodils planted by Jon and others by us; scilla). A few daffodils are quite high already, but most are just an inch or two out of the ground. When I was first in England I was so amazed by the swathes of daffodils, snowdrops, and other bulbs that bloomed in late February/into March. I think I will always associate these plants with living there, and in particular with walking from Albion House along the canal to Sainsbury’s during the first visit I made there.
Some of the snowdrops have a green mark on their interior petals.
Today I dragged brush into piles and then began outlining the flower garden in front of the house with old bricks taken from Jonathan’s maternal grandparents’ farm. It felt so good to move and be outside. The sun was truly warm. We will build some coldframes soon with more bricks. We already began growing tomato, pepper, and cauliflower plants, and the tiny sprouts are in black boxes in the kitchen (for now). March plans also include a hoop house.
Garlic planted in November is coming up now. Fast. Like the tomato sprouts, it seems like you can see it grow. I will plant more soon, so that it matures after the original planting. This weekend we will get chicken wire and build a fence around the place with the raised beds that Joe built. The cats discovered one bed which had no winter plantings and used it as a litter box, dammit. So that will have to be cleaned out, and then we will hope that the wire keeps the cats away.
Jonathan’s aunt gave us artichoke plants and current and raspberry bushes. I forgot to trim these back. They remind me of William Morris textiles.
Apple tree and neighbors’ barn. A lot of all this is trusting things will happen if you set them in motion. Like planting bulbs, garlic, fruit trees, and berry bushes in November. Just wait and see. (Or like deciding to open a writers’/artists’ residency. And then doing the work, getting the word out, and waiting to see if anyone will show up.) I hope we will have a few blossoms on the fruit trees this spring, although maybe not because they were moved in the fall. But maybe.
Seeing this, and the green at the base of the Japanese anemones and of the delphiniums, it becomes possible to believe that last summer was real, and that it will happen again.