In a perfect world I think we could all have done with a slightly heavier snow fall.
The first time I visited St Andrew’s Park, five years ago, it was as a parent rather than a dog walker. I thought it was rather gloomy despite the well-equipped playground and charming cafe (run from a van around which tables covered with polka dot oil cloths are set up), and vowed to visit only if I really, really had to. How things change.
Several years on, and now a dog owner, I find that I am in the same slightly gloomy park on an almost daily basis (I must add here that Sybil does get walked elsewhere, but time is limited at the moment, and a local walk is all we can manage). Given my initial feelings about the park, you’d think this would be a recipe for utter misery and boredom on my part, but curiously, for such a small place, there is always something new to see.
Over the last two weeks snowdrops have been emerging, first one small cluster and now great clumps light up an otherwise dull corner. The crocuses have also started popping up: brilliant flashes of electric yellow and purple along the muddy banks. And although the trees are still leafless and skeletal, there have been some interesting additions: this kite, lit up by the sun, caught my eye the other day.
And at the weekend I could hardly fail to spot this spectacular bit of yarn-bombing.
Recently, I came across a whole group of photos that I took last July when the trees were covered with ribbons in advance of an annual arts festival. Sadly, we weren’t around for the actual festival and I guess that’s why I never got round to posting these photos.
But I snapped these snowdrops during a break between exams, whilst a friend and I tried to commit the life-cycle of the black bean aphid to memory. I’d have been better served if I’d concentrated on taking a few more photographs, as the black bean aphid failed to materialise – we were asked about the glasshouse white fly instead. All well and good, or so I thought, until I re-read the question and discovered they wanted the answer as a fully labeled diagram. It just wasn’t possible. Not the way I’d learned it. When you have just thirty minutes, and it’s been twenty years (at least) since you last sat an exam, there is little room for flexibility when it comes to presentation of information learned by rote. Or at least, that’s how it is for me. I managed a leaf and some eggs, an approximation of a hairy instar and the rest I had to write. I felt rather teenage and truculent about this question, why stipulate a diagram, I huffed to myself. Why not invite diagrams, as they did elsewhere on the paper? In the end I wrote a grumpy note to this effect in the margin, not very clever in retrospect. Funny to think that there is still the ghost of a teenager in me.
Anyway, enough of that. I want snowdrops in my garden. In Anna Pavord’s wonderful book Plant Partners, she suggests combining Helleborus orientalis (any variety), Scilla siberica and Galanthus ‘John Gray’. I’m not sure which variety the snowdrops above are, the differences between the varieties are often so subtle, it’s hard to be sure – but I think ‘John Gray’ has more green. According to Anna Pavord, planting snowdrops just after they have flowered makes them easier to establish. Rich pickings at the garden centre later this month, I thought, as the potted bulbs will look a little less pristine and might be marked down. But then I remembered the mud bath outside, and the fact that I won’t have anywhere to put anything until mid-April. Nyssen it is then. Not that placing an order with Nyssen is any hardship – the only issue is one of exercising restraint.