What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
The immortal first lines from the poem ‘Leisure’ by W.H. Davies, published in 1911.
Spring arrives in temperate garden like an explosion. Gone are the dark days of winter, and suddenly here are longer and warmer days instead. Once we had to look closely for signs of life, now there is now great abundance.
I find spring an exciting yet daunting time. No sooner have I stood up from admiring diminutive snowdrops than I’m desperately trying to appreciate the wealth of daffodils in flower before they finish. I’ve missed some already, a quirk of the strange seasons in Britain and consequence of poor planning. When I arrive at a garden I look to see what has come into flower since my previous visit; in many cases the daffodils in bud a couple of weeks ago are over, leaving just the tattered remains of waning flowers.
The boldness of spring comes as quite a shock after the glumness of winter. Showy flowers of Camellias demand attention. Bold flowers of Magnolias erupt from their furry, rodent-like buds and must be enjoyed before bad weather damages them. In some gardens Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii, a shrubby ‘spurge’ from the Mediterranean region, shows off pineapple-sized heads of zingy yellow-green flowers, while spring bulbs carpet the ground.
This is the time when weeds make their bid for conquest. It sometimes feels like weeds are sent to torment us, but when you consider these plants are perfectly adapted for their local conditions and most of our beloved ornamentals aren’t… well their early and rapid growth suddenly makes sense.
The gardener rushes from place to place like the roadrunner in the Looney Tunes cartoons, trying in vain to keep on top of everything in a frenzy of activity.
Really, why? We endure the most terrible levels of stress as we strive for perfection, but to what end? Spring blesses us with the most incredibly beautiful plants, whose beauty is so often fleeting, yet so often we miss out on this precious display because we’re too busy. We lose focus on what a garden is actually for; it’s supposed to be a place of enjoyment rather than simply a place of work.
Take a moment to step back and enjoy spring. Let the boundless joy of the garden wash over you and re-energise you. Enjoy the perfumes and the colours. Enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on your face. Take a moment to relish the new season. Weeds will still be there for another day, but the spring flowers might not be.
I’ll give the final words here to W.H. Davies, and the final stanza of ‘Leisure’…
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(All images in this post were taken at the famous Caerhays Castle in Cornwall, UK)