As spring emerges so my project begins to mature and takes on what is to be its final shape. Photographing the garden becomes particularly important, although I do have my doubts about the way it puts distance between me and the immediate experience. Noise, also, begins to intrude more and more into the garden although the increasing foliage tends to hide the litter. But more and more I am drawn into its abundant goodness, even beginning to feast on its greenness, despite a misidentification which will become clear later!
2 AprilIt has continued cold… and windy. We could hear the sound of the crowd wafting up from the emirates stadium this week when Arsenal were playing Barcelona, at least that’s what it sounded like. I also managed to photograph a wren yesterday. Not easy to get close with my very limited equipment but soon they will disappear completely behind the foliage so I was glad to get this shot. I am not sure taking photographs of the garden is such a good idea, it changes my relationship with it but, then again, so does writing.
4 April Easter day
The dragon has awakened. Not a very Easter-ly observation but the bramble bushes have begun to sprout shoots which look like flames erupting from the dead hoops of their steely thorns. If they had their own way they would take over the entire garden (before the trees, in turn, spread and overwhelmed them). A more appropriate observation for the season is that I noticed blue tits nesting high up in the rectory. I never thought of blue tits as house dwellers but perhaps the disappearance of sparrows means that these kind of nooks and crannies are now available for the energetic little scavengers.
New blossom is appearing, just as the petals of the first blossom is beginning to disperse and spread drifts of spring-snow over the garden. It is a lovely sight especially when the petals fall on the fresh green growth of a new leaves.
A fine bright day, the sky bright blue from dawn to dusk. This morning the grass was wet and a solitary starling probed the lawn by the mulberry tree, before flying up into the Holly tree, which always seems to be a favourite with its kind. Returning to the garden gate I saw a blackbird with a beak full of dried grass fly up on to the fence, and then disappear into the laurel bush. Nesting has begun.
The dandelions have started flowering so now is the start of the weed season. I always think dandelions are much underappreciated, they are a lovely flower which spread vibrant colour everywhere. But, of course, if they are in the wrong place they are the devil to remove with that long tap root snaking into the earth. Nonetheless I welcome them as an irrepressible sign of natural vibrancy. This is what the weed season is, when natural things have recovered from their winter sleep to such an extent that they can begin to challenge our neat ordering of the world. Our cities need them!
I have been wondering if we would see any summer song birds in the garden and yesterday evening I heard a song I did not recognise. Since then I have been following a blackcap flitting through the treetops. Before the leaves come out is the best time in the year for seeing birds, in a month’s time I don’t think I would have got a sight of him. The black buds of the mulberry are just now beginning to break, giving just the slightest hint of the big green leaves which will soon emerge.
12 AprilThe violets are quietly shrinking away and the daffodils, too, are fading, but the bluebells are beginning to emerge. The plants on the south facing wall of the rectory are now in full bloom. The trees too are beginning to unfurl their leaves. I have been experimenting with eating the young leaves before they develop their bitter tannins. So far beach seems to be the best, elder, also, is passable. Yesterday a few starlings were very busy on the lawn, they looked as if there were feeding on ants but towards the end of the day they began picking up and waving around pigeon feathers: nesting material, I suppose.
Much colder today. Grey skies and a chill wind. But the bluebells continue to erupt, new blossom emerges and the buds of the beech tree spiral out fresh green leaves.
I like ash trees. This is certainly connected to my name, but there is, anyway, something encouragingly English and useful about them. Their leaves have just begun to sprout, but it is difficult to see. Ash trees do not grow branches close to the ground and I am reduced to peering at them through binoculars, they look as if little ferns have sprouted from the twigs. With the dried ash keys from last season hanging alongside them it is a peculiar sight
17 AprilToday the first butterfly. Everything looks very green under the blue sky made wonderfully silent by the miracle of the Icelandic ash cloud. Red Campion grows in the garden in a few places and the blossom continues to flow from one tree to the next, some are just coming into flower whilst others are fading, the white petals falling and being replaced by dark green leaves.
19 AprilThe lawn has been mown. The rough grass spotted with fading violets and other growths leveled to a uniform greenness. Of course, it is necessary but something is lost in the process. The tidiness, however, was infectious and picking up a blue plastic bag which had flown into the garden I quickly filled it with litter. A garden, I suppose, is precisely this process of weeding and cleaning: the management of abundance both human and natural
20 AprilSquirrels are ever present in the garden. As I think I've said before the word that comes to mind is an 'infestation'. They are rather like a weed. But now is very much the season of the weed. I realize I have a very different relationship with the weeds whose name I know, like nettles and dandelions, and those whose name I don't know. I am thinking particularly of the ever present weed which clings to you and has a stiff central stem from which spring at intervals its long thin leaves. I am rather ashamed about not knowing its name, but I'm not sure how I find out, it isn't in any of my flower books. A little job for the coming days!
21 AprilThey are called cleavers. That is, the weed whose name I had forgotten yesterday and a very appropriate name it is. It also has many other names such as goose grass, beggars lice and catchweed bedstraw. I also discovered that it is edible and tried it this morning for breakfast, stewed with onions and garlic with a fried egg on top. Not bad, but as I suspected it would have been better with the stalks removed. The tips can be eaten raw but it's sticky little hooks make it a rather strange experience.
24 AprilI like hoverflies but they also perplex me. Why do they hover in the way they do? Right in front of your face then in an instant they've vanished and reappeared two feet away. It's kind of spooky. But they are a lovely part of the summer garden. Not that it is summer but it feels like it: wall-to-wall sunshine, day after day. The bluebells are beginning to shed a blue sheen over the garden. The beech leaves are emerging into a wonderful soft green and the Mulberry buds swell and fatten.
26 AprilThis afternoon when I went out I could hear some drum ‘n bass from the neighboring flats lurching over the garden. Along with the botanical weeds, the sun and warmth also brings out this kind of audio invasion, funnily enough it always seems to be worse in late spring and early summer, by August things have often improved. The garden is never exactly a quiet place but, I find that the incessant beat of modern music, more than anything else, overwhelms its sense of calm and beauty.
Another bright morning and the garden looking fresh and beautiful. It revived my spirits. The grass has started to grow and it is once more looking like a meadow rather than a clipped lawn. The bluebells have also come out and are approaching their full glory, spreading a blue ocean beneath the Mulberry tree; with the morning sun still low and everywhere dappled with light it is a lovely sight. I was also inordinately pleased with myself managing to take this picture of a hoverfly!
29 AprilThe beech trees have now come into full leaf, but the leaves are still soft and a wonderful rich, gentle green. This seems to be to the liking of the wood pigeons who have taken up residence amongst the green branches and are clearly eating something, but what I do not know. Everything is now very abundant and the first wrinkled leaves of the Mulberry are now visible. There have also been butterflies in the garden -- white, speckled brown and a small blue
The Management of AbundancePerhaps it is the simple truth that
Abundance creates Scarcity.
That is, the plentiful harvest feeds many bellies
But those many bellies then strip the fields of their fertility
So, because we resist damnation and death
The rich, chaotic abundance of green
Must be managed by man's mind
And made serviceable to man's needs
And, in the process, female fertility is medicalized
Grass cut short on manicured lawns
Rambling mulberries staked
And the limits of growth established
Yet there grows still weeds:
The long-rooted dandelion
The wild arches of bramble
The rampant revolution of Abundance.