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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2007

Investing in Spring

It is the first dry day for several weeks and even better it is a weekend. Time to make the deposit that will mature in the early months of next year – bulb planting.

The borders are cleared of weeds and the black mat that restricts their growth is laid beneath a layer of bark. Strategic holes are cut and small trenches laid for the seed that will grow into the spring bloom. Snowdrops, crocus & narcissi are sown in random mixture of colour for winter hibernation. We wait in eager anticipation of the bloom.

Early January and as yet no snow or freeze has confirmed the winter passage, yet shoots appear in small numbers and new growth seems imminent. The Carse is flooded – promising good hay for the 2007 race horse fodder - and the Forth runs high into the fields – evidence of record rainfall but 7 degrees Celsius tells the tale. Twelve weeks of storm winds and flooding rain cannot surely constitute winter. Where is the cleansing freeze that will halt the life cycle of pests and sterilise the earth for its Spring renewal?

Many years ago I had a friend who was a Climatologist  - Mick Kelly – I baby sat his daughter. He told me that the difference between Climatology & Meteorology is that it takes 20 years at 95% significance to establish a trend in Climate change but that the most recent Storm was a reportable factor in meteorology. There is forecasting & FORECASTING. Perhaps the most recent memory is the most intense and influential on the opinion of what constitutes a trend.

February 2nd - the temperature is 15 degrees C and the sprouting bulbs are appearing with a vengeance – two snowdrop heads are to be seen alongside a host of potential flower. You may think that this high temperature at this time of year is unusual but you are wrong. The first week in February is known to Climatologists as a ‘singularity’ – a mathematical term adapted to describe a consistent exception. Meteorological records show that there is great variation in data for most days of the year but some days (or short 2-3 day periods) consistently differ from this pattern. There is often a clear, warm few days at the start of February and over the years I have noted this to good effect for walking & photography. Out of the apparent chaos of the British weather there appears a DNA like signature that can be read and exploited.

February 14th – Snowdrops open their white hearts to announce the start of the floral revival. Several frosts & a flurry of snow do not deter them from illuminating the garden. Over the next few weeks I see patches of white in several woodland areas that I pass – our domestic display seems tokenistic in the light of the these vast carpets of snowdrops.

March 1st – St Davids Day – no Daffodils in evidence but the Crocuses have begun to show bloom and colour a dull day. A bright spell later in the afternoon lifts their colour for a photo. The Narcissi are in bud but not yet decided on bloom.

March 7th – A visit to Aberdeen on a sunny day reveals numerous examples of advanced beds of crocus in yellow, white & purple array. The sheer volume of plants is what hits me – a mature development of these hardy annuals compared to our own infant planting.

March 8th – A walk round Callander ends at Bracklinn Falls and in a small pool by the path there is a clump of frogspawn – someone else is also investing in Spring. A report to Springwatch is filed as soon as I get home.
March 9th – The May Blossom has opened on the trees near to King’s Park – pink-white harbingers of warmth & sunlight. There transience depends on the lack of wind – a first blow will spread them like confetti all over the road.

March 26th – A warm weekend that was more Summer than Spring finally coaxed the Narcissi into bloom. It was well worth the wait – these miniature daffodils are enchanting in their delicacy.

The change of weather has coincided with a change of the clocks to give an enhanced impression of the exit from Winter into Spring. The first lawn mowings and the children playing in the street as a pink cast of the setting sun falls on our little enclave signal the maturation of our investment. The interest accrues from now on.

© Keith Ratcliffe

April 2007

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