At last the gardening year proper is here and April has seen a frenzy of activity in Waterfurlong - potatoes put in, lawns mown, sweet peas planted out, and the month began with gardener Jo's cunning April Fool's joke, which tricked nearly everyone!
What a luxury it was to catch up with neighbours over a glass of wine during the hottest Easter on record. This unseasonal heat came with a high price tag, of course. Today is May Day and already the ground is dry as dust, the water-butts are empty and the sprinklers gyrating away. We live in fear of a hosepipe ban. Few of us lost plants through winter cold, but the legacy of last summer's intense heat and drought is everywhere; lilac flowers are half their normal size - the white ones looking more like privet - many narcissi came up blind and moisture-loving plants such as ferns, hostas and lily-of-the-valley are struggling to cling on. There are winners as well as losers - the Mediterranean rosemary has been smothered in blue flowers and the bearded irises are plump with buds.
Our fruit trees reversed their normal roles - this year the apple blossom was the corps de ballet to the pear's prima ballerina. Both my ancient Williams bon Chrétien and my new Beth were smothered in bloom, much to the delight of the emerging bees. It's easy to forget what a sun-worshipper the pear is - like me, it needs summer heat and hates our prevailing bitingly-cold east winds! Peaches, apricots and nectarines also got off to a brilliant start - how many came through the hard frosts that followed the heat-wave remains to be seen.
So little apple blossom this year.
The birds have veered between feast and famine - one day's heat bringing a swarm of insects, the next day's plummeting temperatures leading them back to the bird-feeders we're leaving up until their young have fledged. One of the loveliest things this spring is the (comparative) abundance of butterflies as many managed to over-winter - it seems to be a particularly good year for the gorgeous little Holly Blue, which we spy flying high over the tops of the hedgerows.
Holly Blues, photographer unknown.
Gardener Bruce has just completed his bee-keeping training and one of our lovely followers, Kirsty from Ketton, has approached us about housing a couple of her hives. This is great news as the gardens once had numerous bee-keepers but the number had dwindled down to only two.
Meanwhile, one of April's most gratifying moments had to be the American poet and writer Victoria Erickson sweetly
describing our site as 'beautiful' on her Facebook page. Here's a piece to inspire you from her book Edge of Wonder. Happy Beltane!
© Karen Meadows 2019