Still the middle of winter, though it’s been soft so far, but snowdrops bursting through the soil in their multiple clumps seem to tell us that spring is not far away.
They could be great pretenders too, of course, and another ‘Beast from the East’ could envelope us in its icy clutches before the winter relinquishes, but still the little plants feel like brave warriors, giving us quiet good cheer.
I was part of the little band, some ten years ago now, that planted spring-flowering bulbs throughout the park under Ingrid and Adrian Gifford’s supervision. We called ourselves ‘garden guerillas’ to enhance our esprit de corps, but we were quite tired even so by the end of the digging. We must have planted 10,000 bulbs that autumn, and we were so looking forward to seeing the spring flowers emerge.
The first spring thereafter was not auspicious: all the rows of lovely crocus bulbs, on the hillside beneath the Bowls Pavilion, had sprouted beautifully, and were just about to burst into flower, when they were chomped down by hungry deer, just like that! One day here, the next gone. I can’t remember if the snowdrops had even appeared that year, so they couldn’t have been much of a display, not like they are now. But fortunately, it appears the deer don’t fancy them.
We wondered, at the time of planting, whether there would be enough room in the park for both flower displays to enchant the older folks, and wide-open kickabout places for younger ones to play with footballs. We needn’t have worried, because activity spaces developed apace as well, thanks to Ingrid’s careful garden design for the perimeter borders and less-trodden areas. And the little glade of carefully planted trees sheltering the snowdrops has matured into a grove.
Time goes on, early spring flowers sprout, grow and blossom, signalling the advent of a new season of growth. Blink and you’ll miss it; I felt lucky to see them on my quiet foray through the park earlier this week.