'What's the matter, that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?
Don Pedro's greeting in Much Ado could well apply these days, and it was all looking so good towards the end of last year. In spite of everything and in spite of February's reputation for filling the dykes, a new season is here. Spring signs are showing all over the place. The blackbirds have been chasing one another in earnest and claiming their territories, as have the jackdaws, while the dunnocks scurry around the undergrowth and thankfully continue their courtship out of sight. The mating habits of these chirpy little songsters are not for the faint-hearted.
Nest boxes are being inspected and nature’s tweetings are swelling in number. On the ground and in the pots the tulips are emerging and those Spanish bluebells are back once more making their presence known in their aggressive fashion. And here was I thinking that they had disappeared with Brexit! Every year I battle feebly to clear them out of the borders. Back they come every year and I give them an annual pardon when they fill the garden with their blooms.
In contrast, the snowdrops are more than welcome as soon as the small pale green spears break the winter surface. To St Francis they were an emblem of hope and in medieval days known as Candlemas Bells. Linnaeus named them Galanthus - the milk flower. They are a democratic little flower inhabiting nearly every garden rich or poor alike, much in demand in children's gardens; their attraction a reminder of first steps in gardening as an infant pastime. Small patches pop up in small gardens, larger swathes in large gardens specializing in huge varieties of different types much to the joy of those who delight in snowdrops. To most of us a snowdrop is a snowdrop but the real enthusiast examines their details on bended knee. Some great garden displays just speak for themselves. Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire, for instance, the product of that great plantsman Sir Henry Elwes, is quite stunning at this time of the year. So, too, is its neighbour, the Painswick Rococo Garden. Nearer home, the snowdrop display is the first of many to enhance the Bishop's Palace Gardens and its visitors here in Wells.
It is our sobering good fortune that we are in a position to take so much pleasure from where we live. We may grouse a little but compared to other less advantaged districts we are lucky to enjoy our gardens or have access to open spaces and watch the return of the natural order of things.
For those of us charged with trying to organize events and activities for our members, it will be a relief when it comes to set aside this soothsaying business. Normality means cultivating our own gardens. In the meantime let February do what it does and open its doors to spring. One touch of nature is all we need, a pot on the window sill, a patch of crocus in the garden or by the wayside, clearing a path in the undergrowth, keeping an eye on all those things that make February such an interesting month. Pip