Spring starts small in my garden…

Travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

…and that’s the way I like it! I love summer’s profusion of roses, autumn’s blaze of glory, even winter’s icy blanket – but, for me, part of spring’s appeal is its hesitant approach, as if too polite to take its welcome for granted.

Mother Nature sets a stealthy pace: scattered snowdrops dangle like frosted crystals, magnolia and pussy willow buds come wearing fur coats, in case winter stages a last hurrah, and from corsage-like clumps of foliage cyclamen Coum and sweet violet extend slender antenna, topped with tiny, jewel-bright flowers, as if to test the air.

I like to echo her whisper-it-softly ways, with bulbs that produce a delightful array of miniature bouquets, a mere 6” tall. First to flower is vibrant royal blue iris Harmony, licked with yellow tongues; then dainty daffodil Tete-a-tete – a burst of sunshine-yellow. Soon after comes tiny tulip Little Beauty in softly powdered cherry red, with tightly tapered buds – small enough to fit on a postage stamp – that open to exotic, waterlily-like stunners. This little trio perfectly capture the mood of a new season, tip-toeing into pots and flowerbeds.

They are soon not alone. Already, the snowdrops have melted away as taller, bolder, more conspicuous leucojum arrive. The big daffodils are here and pink dicentra hearts are arching; even bluebells are blooming – a whole month ahead of time. Early tulips are about to burst open and over the next few weeks there’ll be narcissi, tulips galore and headily-scented hyacinths to trumpet the joy of spring at its finest.

Later in the year, the garden’s colour palette will switch to blues, pinks, crimsons and purples, and the yellows will disappear; but for now their sunniness is a necessity, especially on dull days, so yellow-green foliage is threaded throughout the garden, to create its own light. There are spirea Goldflame and Goldmound, an Emerald ‘n’ Gold euonymous, a spotted laurel and a small acer with leaves as lime a green as the new growth on the Mexican orange blossom (choisya). And yellow-flowering shrubs, too: the winter jasmine hasn’t yet taken its leave, but is fast fading; meanwhile, the weeping forsythia is beacon-bright and underplanted with vivid purple aubretia – also flowering early – which made a perfect Easter weekend colour-pairing.

As always, my true delight was to savour first, at this fast-unfolding, rainbow-bright feast, the horticultural hors d’oeuvre of those three small but truly enchanting early arrivals.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs www.perfectlyworded.co.uk, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and www.HotelsThatWereNot.com, a website showcasing properties with a past.
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