The sun was shining so I decided to take a walk around my garden, looking for signs of spring. It was a very short walk.
I live in the city and have a small suburban garden. Not much of the garden is given over to flowers. To deal with the problem of not being really able to tackle a full-on garden, the centre is paved with borders down either side. I have filled the short borders with shrubs that offer colour and little maintenance, and underplanted these with bulbs that come up year after year and look after themselves.
My first stop was the mahonia so named after Bernard McMahon, a horticulturalist born in Ireland in the 1700s. This is an evergreen shrub with spiny leaves. Good luck to the grandchild that loses their football under it! It offers dark green leaves all year round, and then delights me with clusters of bright yellow flowers at this time of year. A large bee was taking its time cruising the flowers.
The next bush was the Forsythia, a lovely shrub introduced to the UK in the 18th century by its namesake, William Forsyth. The yellow flowers appear before the leaves and making an amazing view when you look up and see them against the blue sky.
Many flowers have a symbolism attached to them. Because it flowers so early in spring, the forsythia stands for spring sun and anticipation.
I used to have a large kerria japonica, named after William Kerr. It’s also known as the double-flowered Japanese rose. It attracts bees, and is said to symbolise wealth and prosperity. It is beautiful but invasive, and other shrubs were suffering from its rampant growth. I had to cut it back, expecting it to see some regrowth. Unfortunately this plan was not successful; it no longer lingers in my garden.
The border on the opposite side hosts a white lilac bush. The lilac was introduced from the mountains of south-east Europe in the 16th century as a garden plant and has since become naturalised. It is covered in buds, leaves waiting to spring out any day now. White lilacs represent purity and innocence, the joy of youth.
Underneath the bushes, bluebell leaves are green and healthy, looking good for when they flower later in the year. Apparently almost half the world’s bluebells are found in the UK. They are relatively rare in the rest of the world. The bluebell has quite a few common names. I like Cuckoo’s Boots and I love the name Witches’ Thimbles. I might adopt that one.
In the language of flowers, the bluebell is a symbol of humility, gratitude and everlasting love. It is said that if you turn a bluebell flower inside-out without tearing it, you will win the one you love.
Despite the cold that sends me reaching for a blanket before finally giving in and turning up the heating, spring is very definitely in the air. Watching my garden, and the fields behind, come to life is a joy that I look forward to each spring. I don’t think I will ever tire of this.
It inspires me to new projects, new activities, and an excuse to buy new notebooks to fill with ideas. Will I actually do all the things I’m jotting down? Probably not, but I am enjoying the thinking and the possibilities.
Portland Jones, Disability Liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands