Slow Motion


Since the first balmy weekend in March I have watched both our gardens move forward as if in slow motion. Temperatures have remained resolutely low, bringing to a halt the tulips, narcissi and hyacinths that seemed so eager to get going in late February. In the span of two weeks their fat buds and leafy shuttlecocks have edged forward only the tiniest amount. Our London garden, not blessed with much sunshine in winter, has been the slowest to get going, whilst The Watch House, with its special coastal microclimate, has progressed faster. Yet when I look back at what I was blogging about this time last year, it feels like we are a good three weeks behind.

Spring bulbs in particular are acutely sensitive to warmth, or lack of it. A mild spell around now can accelerate everything into bloom at once, whilst a chilly snap quickly puts the show back on ice. This is because early spring plants (described as ‘prevernal’ for those who like their fancy words) are fine-tuned to bloom when pollinating insects are abroad, but before trees, shrubs and perennials shade them out. Spring bulbs are like sprinters: finely tuned, packed with energy-rich carbohydrates and ready to power ahead as soon as nature fires the starting pistol. One can almost feel the muscular bulbs poised on their starting blocks, straining against the roots that hold them back. We’ve had one false start, now they’re ready for the off.

Race leader Narcissus 'Rip Van Winkle' was one of the fastest out of the blocks

Race leader Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ was one of the fastest out of the blocks this year

They may not be distance runners, but spring bulbs put on the show everyone wants to see. The March weather won’t be breaking any records, but it’s been suggested that Easter could be unusually warm. That suits me as I am on holiday for two weeks so will get to be a spectator when the race does eventually get underway. You may even spot me cheering and waving as the daffodils, hyacinths and crown imperials coming roaring past, going for gold, silver and bronze.

How is spring progressing in your garden? Are you out in front or lagging behind like me (ever the long distance runner!)?

Still in the changing room, my bulbs prepare for the off

Still in the changing room, my bulbs prepare for the off