Friday, 23 March 2012

Spring sprung as spirits soar

Unbelievably, it’s only a couple of weeks until Easter. Where on Earth has the first quarter of the year gone?

We barely seem to have emerged from the darker days – yet this weekend, the clocks go forward. And earlier this week it was the spring equinox!

Even though I love the darkness and the cold of winter, with each passing year I seem to yearn more and more for the warmth and the sun.

Deep down, still a northern girl – northern European, that is – but increasingly drawn to the south and the sun.

The spring is having an impact on the home front, though. Almost four months after actually getting the initial work done to clear our small garden, we’ve now started to actually do some planting.

On the wall that is now revealed by having finally had the dreadful pampas hauled from the ground, there is space for a ceramic sun I bought in Collioure, together with a vibrantly-coloured ceramic lizard from the same shop and a warning sign in French about the dangerous felines that reside in our little corner of Hackney.

And the cats are most certainly feeling full of spring. Boudicca has already done a couple of celebratory patio rolls on warmer days. And the kittens are just as full of seasonal bounce, having also both also decided, in recent months, that it’s far more fun playing with The Other Half or I than with each other.

Otto might look a cutie, with lovely soft, mitten-like paws and big, soft eyes, but those mitten paws have very sharp points in them, even when she’s playing gently, and she’s got teeth like a little vampire too.

My arms are covered in the marks of play, but for some reason, when it comes to cats, I have the patience of Job.

On a rather gentler note, after a visit to a rammed Columbia Road flower market on Sunday afternoon, a lemon tree is now settling into its new pot against the same south-facing wall; one large fruit already well on the way, with more emerging and dozens of buds slowly opening to embrace the warming days.

The mere idea of having edible lemons growing in my own back garden is difficult to believe – and really quite exhilarating.

Violas and pansies have added quick, deep colour, while thyme and sage and fennel and two varieties of mint have been potted too.

There’s plenty more to do and next week, more will be done. I want to get some aloes and a chilli plant. I’m wondering about wild garlic in a pot in the shadier part of the garden – you can make great pesto with it, apparently.

But more herbs are essential: oregano and tarragon and chives are top of the list. And both flat leaf and curly parsley are required too – the latter by special request of The Other Half.

Rosemary will have to wait until I’ve devised a net covering for a pot, thus avoiding it being eaten by shiny, metallic beetles that have arrived on these shores from southern climes in recent years.

What we’re after is a mix of decorative and edible. At the moment, the first suggestions are there, although it looks a little stilted at present. But our Gaudí salamander, from Barcelona, has already found a sunny new home.

This coming Sunday, I’ll head back down to Columbia Road – early, so that it won’t be almost impossible to move.

Then on Monday, as part of the ongoing work we’re having done on the flat, I’m taking a trip to the nearest B&Q to buy more pots, gravel, sand and compost.

It’s a bit of a guessing game at present. The garden, once cleared and with paving slabs now having replaced the embarrassing excuse for a ‘lawn’ that had struggled on for 16 years, now seems to have doubled in size.

But it’s all too tempting to do so much that it shrinks back again quickly. Pots hopefully offer the chance to create something that’s enjoyable and productive – and looks good.

And if any other proof were needed that spring really is here – beyond seeing how the willow trees in the park near our flat are now draped in green – then the arrival in Waitrose of baby Jersey Royals is enough to make the spirits soar.

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