February is showing the first, ominous, signs that the arrival of spring is fast approaching. The wild snowdrops are bobbing heads beneeth the hedgerow and this week I have seen the first wild primrose and tiny violets in the riverbank down by the meadow. Add that to the fact that the Christmas cake is, finally, finished, and it's a good indication that before long even the Reluctant Gardener will have to admit its time to get out and * do something * on the soggy side of the patio door.
It's the time of year when all those great excuses for leaving things not-done in the autumn – which seemed such a good idea at the time – start to look not-so-good after all. I DO know where the garden shed is located – because I have quite a good memory – it's just temporarily invisible at the moment. The forsythia and the thingie-with-pink-flowers have grown up, over and around, creating a green burial mound. Last autumn's labor-saving decision means we will probably need a machete to liberate the mower.
…… and while I'm on the subject of things growing, growing, GROWING, I reckon thereought to be a law against Garden Centers selling pretty little flowering things in pots which turn into humungous other-plant-gobbling monsters in a remarkable short space of time. The label said * something-or-other-fuchsia * – fuchsia my Aunt Florence! – its 7ft high over 10ft in diameter and obliterating every other plant in its path to world domination. This nightmare is high on the list of this year's * to-do's * – following on from its previous position on last year's * given-up-as-just-too-much-hard-work * list. It's at times like these that mind turns to thoughts of dynamite.
That is what the Reluctant Gardener actually does in February – make lists. The longest list is always the * to-do * list – which is really a follow-on from last year's * didn't-do * list and therefore a bit depressing. The cozy comfort of January curled up in front of the fire with hot chocolate and a book gives way to prowling around outside and taking stock of the size of the task waiting for spring. Its depressing because everything looks tatty, soggy and quite uninspiring.
That, however, will change with the first warm sunny day. The first temperature rise combined with that most essential ingredient – sunshine – results in a rush of insanity. Plants shoot up through the soil and gardeners shoot outside to grub around. This erratic behavior infects the relevant gardeners as well as the keen ones and is known as Spring. It's the time when you actually SEE your next door neighbors for the first time for months. It's a community insanity and it's catching. You see them-next-door outside grubbing about and the next thing is you pulling on the wellies and joining in. Later, of course, still suffering from the unaccustomed activity even after a hot bath, you wish you had just folded the curtains and turned on the telly.
The thing about Spring is that everyone is waiting for it …. and during February it appears to be * on hold *. The great British weather does extraordinary things – you are scraping the ice off the windscreen one morning and going out in a cardie the next. All in all, its best not to trust February to be anything except completely unpredictable. The primrose and violets I saw this morning have probably just lost the plot – you wont get me out there for a while yet.
Beside I have just seen the weather map, and its forecasting snow and icy conditions (okay, be honest, its for Scotland, but there is nothing to stop it traveling down the country!) And therefore I can stay inside without going on a guilt trip. Time to put the kettle on.