She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.

She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
“Winter is dead.”

Of all the poems heralding the start of spring, this is my favourite. But it’s not from the quill of a celebrated Romantic wordsmith. This gem, Daffodowndilly, was written by the creator of Winne the Pooh, A.A. Milne.

Of course, the most famous daffodil poem is by William Wordsworth who most definitely was a Romantic poet. But if you want to be a pedant about it (and I do), Wordsworth only ‘wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o’er vales and hills’ after reading his sister’s journal. He regularly plundered Dorothy’s diary for inspiration, including an entry from April 15, 1802 where she describes spotting a colony of daffodils reeling, dancing and laughing with the wind blowing upon them from the lake. Plagiarism, anyone?

Still, it’s the poets I look to as spring approaches. Fiction has rarely come close to encapsulating the excitement, delight and hope engendered by new shoots poking through the soil. After a long, hard winter (and, in the case of my Northern garden, a thoroughly wet and grey season), those tips of tender green signal that snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils aren’t far behind.

As both the garden and I shake off our winter coats, it’s time to start planning for the year ahead. Out comes my plant wish list, teeming with old favourites and new discoveries. After spending two years landscaping my new plot and planting trees and shrubs, it’s time to have some fun.

On my shopping list for 2024 are, among other things, snake’s head frilliary, miscanthus sinensis boucle, Mexican fleabane, the Claude Monet rose, and night-scented phlox. Just thinking about these plants makes me happy. I imagine myself wandering the garden at dusk, stroking the silky grasses, bending to smell the roses, and catching the scent of the phlox as I pass by, no doubt with a glass of wine in hand.

But then, gardening is all about the anticipation, isn’t it? King Charles was mocked for admitting he talked to his plants but I do the same, gently coaxing bulbs to the surface and congratulating once-dormant flora for shrugging off the winter frosts and bursting back into life.

Given the harshness of the colder months on my Northern hill, some plants will not have survived through to spring. I did my best to protect them but the constant rain and damp has bested me and done irreparable damage. At one point during the winter storms, I looked out of my bedroom window to see a new river flowing down the field opposite, watched by a group of bemused sheep who, like me, knew it hadn’t been there before.

Allowing for the soggy season, there’s much to look forward to as the days grow longer and lighter. As another fine poet called Christina Rossetti once observed, ‘There is no time like Spring / When life’s alive in everything’.

Words and images by Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul  


This article first appeared in Catena