After a long, hard winter, was there ever a more glorious trio of words than ‘British Summer Time’? That extra hour of daylight, the relief that the winter months are firmly in the past, the tentative hope that, now, there will be life in the garden.

In my last gardening article, I railed against the barren emptiness of January and the limbo-like nothingness of February. But now we can rejoice! The soil is warming up, frosts are less frequent, and the cats are happy to meander about outside.

And what better barometer for the promise of a new season than the return of Gardeners’ World? As a child, I dreaded evenings on BBC 2. But my special fear was reserved for Gardeners’ Question Time on Radio 4 which, to my young mind, juxtaposed a diabolical combination of airing during Sunday lunch and being hair-pullingly dull.

Oh, how things change. I’m chomping at the bit to welcome Monty, Adam and Rachel back into my living room. I look forward to Nellie, Patti and Ned racing around Longmeadow. And I’m mustard keen to see Sir Monty of Don with his hands in the soil, coaxing plants into the world.

There’s something about watching Gardeners’ World that makes me want to raid the garden centre, buy pots, and sow seeds. Not only does the show inspire and entertain, it goads me outside, full of new ideas and a renewed desire to garden until the daylight fades.

From my bedroom window, I can observe the garden waking from its winter sleep. Heavy snow, freezing temperatures and frequent rain have all taken their toll but the plant life soldiers on. The nodding blooms of the hellebores signal that better weather is on its way while the daffodils dance in the breeze. Crocuses offer cheer in the borders and buds are appearing on bushes.

But I’m not quite ready to get back out there. My exposed Northern plot is still blustery and cold and while the shrubs may be hardy, I’m not. Thankfully, there is a wealth of poetry extolling the virtues of spring, all of which can be read under a blanket with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Consider this by A.A. Milne from his book When We Were Very Young:

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

It would be remiss not to mention William Wordsworth, a poet associated with spring the world over. I love his host of golden daffodils (although there’s an argument that he filched that image from his sister, Dorothy) but prefer this passage from Lines Written in Early Spring:

‘Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.’

On that beautiful note, I must set Gardeners’ World to record and get on with my plan to build a new potting area. More of that anon.

Words and images by Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul


This article first appeared in Catena