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New life is piercing through cold ground

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

  • UNFURLING: Dicentra Spectabilis

  • BUDDING: Sambucus nigra

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A FAMILY of wrens have moved into the vacant housemartin nest under the eaves. I noticed them last night on one of the brightest dusks of the year so far.

So small, I was fooled in to thinking they were butterflies at first, or bats, or the housemartins back, as if such a seasonal presence and absence could be altered.

The size of a hen's egg and often weighing less than a £1 coin, these birds are populating the evening sky, flitting in the clematis, on to the pear, in the evergreen hedge and the eucalyptus tree.

And just as I think about turning in, I see that three of them have formed a neat line on the roof ridge surveying the entire garden before them.

Through the darkest days of winter, I had forgotten that this moment would come again.

It is the realisation that things are waking up. I can hear frogs in the pond, lonely fellows saying 'I'm here'. It's Valentine's Day.

Why should it still amaze me that new life pierces through the cold wet ground with annual surety?

It is tempting to think, when pools of water form on the saturated beds and borders that nothing can withstand it, rotting instead where it is buried.

But among the sodden debris of last year's plant material, dead stems and twigs, here are verdant shoots which appear strong and determined as if to say, we are the new order of things. The baton has been passed.

Procrastination has been a common theme in my garden over the last few weeks, but with the change in light, I know that dormancy has come to an end, for me at least.

I want to assist the new growth by throwing off the old, weeding out unwanted competition, clearing the deadwood.

There is part of me that worries about a frost or snow shower, which is still quite possible, exposing tenders to the elements.

So I'll start cautiously, heading for the shrubs and hardiest specimens first.

Because once that work is done, I can get on with feeding the beds with a thick layer of manure that my neighbour dumps over the hedge.

It is well rotted, and while some clover seeds remain, they can be decapitated easily when after germination they begin to tarnish the surface.

It is a necessary downside to an otherwise worthwhile affair.

Last year's batch was alive with brandling worms which will do so much good by burying air gaps in the soil and creating loamy wormcasts.

They will take the nutrients deep to feed the roots that have made the earth their home.

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