season of looking forward

We went to Nyman’s today (one of the great Sussex gardens, probably at its best in May, but with a magnificent and famous summer border made of annuals ). It was one of those mild and dreary winter days when you could never say it was actually raining but the air was heavy with moisture and everything was constantly wet. I sat in the car and read the paper while John took Milo (Elisabeth and Robert’s dog who is residing with us somewhat reluctantly while his family is in New Zealand) through the woods where dogs are permitted. Underfoot was hard going because there were inches deep of mud. MILO loves mud. When he came back, wagging his tail, clearly delighted, people were taking detours to avoid him and he had mud everywhere, even on the top of his head. ( I presume it was Milo people were avoiding and not John, although he alleges that when he marches along, growling and scowling, and wearing his Grumphy Old Man hat, crowds part before him!)

John and I then walked in the garden proper, where we stuck to the paths. Although this kind of damp days do not enhance visual perception, they are wonderful for smell.

We passed through a wooded area with clumps of snowdrops. How cool and lovely they look, with their drooping delicate white flowers and their dainty edging of green. They remind me of Carolyn. Her birthday was on 3oth January and I used to try to find her a birthday card with snowdrops on it,for not only was this flower in blossom when it was her birthday, it was somehow emblematic of her with its dainty strength-in-fragility; and besides she was no strumpet of a nasturtium or overblown dahlia. Beside the snowdrops in Nymans are the larger leukojums which always look clumsy and oversized by comparison.

They have quite a large collection of Davidia here (the handkerchief tree, which has large white bracts in late/April or May and in certain glorious years this blossoming coincides with rivers of bluebells lapping at their feet)) and they are noticeable at this time of year with their distinctive shape – trunk rising straight to higher then human height, and then very wide horizontal branches, plus their oval fruits dangle like small eggs from an Easter decorated tree.

I smell the sarcoccoca before I spot it – an entirely nondescript flower on a bush with the scent of a sweet with writing on it we used to get as children. There were daffodils at the stage of stalks swollen with flowers to come. The many magnolias were in fat bud. We came across a daphne bholua with its pink flowers quite noticeable yet of its exquisite fragrance, not a trace. I marched round it, sniffing here and there: nothing. Yet on our return I could smell its sweet perfume long before we could see it, although once again, when we actually arrived at it, it gave off no smell.

The famous late summer border composed entirely of annuals was just a dark empty stretch, a blaze of colour only in the Head Gardener’s notebook at present, and the herbacious border although it had life stirring in it, in no way suggested how glorious it could look in just a few months.

I had brought back to my house from Elisabeth’s some hyacinth bulbs that she had planted in a creamy ceramic bowl, and now they are flowering, waxy white on my kitchen table, with their wonderful smell floating mysteriously now and then on the invisible air streams.

Milo smells of mud and wet dog – an acquired taste. I think.

I reflect that this is the season of Looking Forward. We still have February and March to get through and I remember from my Northern childhood that these could be ferocious months. Although it seems many years since the sea froze at our ankles and our breath made viewing patches on the inside of our bedroom windows, the winter wolf just sleeps in his den: eventually he will emerge again and stalk us with his deadly intent. But not, I think, this winter.



About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

4 Responses to season of looking forward

  1. Moira McNair says:

    A very evocative and observant piece, Anne. Made me realise that February isn’t so bad after all, with many beautiful things to appreciate . Love Moira

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Jack Paterson says:

    Nice one! Reminds of me of very pleasant, happy and much appreciated visits with you both, and Ishbel on one of the times. Your good writing style doesn’t diminish either! Jack @ Creag Bhan.

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