Monday, 24 March 2014



... and so, the night and day are one again. Hallelujah! Growing up in London I was aware of the seasons but only fully experienced them for the first time 20 years ago, when living in Bunowen.

At the Spring Equinox I stood outside my little house and felt the repressed and burgeoning power of growth. All around me the boulder-laden heathery mossy fields that pass as pasture in Connemara felt as if they were about to explode.

It was vital and visceral. I could feel it in my guts.

If you grew up in the countryside you’re most likely blissfully unaware of this feeling. Yet as an errant Londoner gone walkabout, it rooted me to the earth in a way that I always suspected lay within me.

Not that I suddenly became Mr. Organic Universe 1995. I didn’t grow a beard (well, actually I did, but there was very little to do during Winter) nor was my land carpeted by rows of poly-tunnels.

Two decades later, umpteen houses down the road, it’s looking likely I’ll fail to erect my raised beds for the second year running. Time, money, energy, where does it all fit in? 

Yes, exactly, the usual excuses.

The Snapper also sometimes gets down on herself because she’s failed to move the hawthorn saplings to the new hedge, or split her primroses, so to make sure we enjoy our garden we wander around it, or on wet winter evenings look at photos of our contribution to nature’s handiwork.

 planted last year...

Now the sight of my blackcurrant bush pumping bulbous buds delivers a stab of hope. Shoots bursting out of rosebushes deliver energy to my storm-beaten body.

Ireland’s native plants act out an annual battle between yellow and purple. Early Spring, the yellow wins hands down with primrose, daffodil, narcissus, celandine and gorse.

When we moved here two years ago, I went mental with the strimmer and cleared the overgrown rear third of the garden.

We put down mypex sheets on one half of that area and planted three native apple saplings and an oak, grown in a pot, on the other side. We threw a net over the heating tank and grew sweet peas up its ugly breeze blocks and black plastic sides, camouflaging it with colour and scent.

Where the lawn rises to meet the old hedge we buried narcissus and bluebells. In the lawn we planted snowdrops and in the bed, tulips.

Two years ago, I cut a hole in the lawn by the front gate and planted a calla lilly, which I hoped might flower three weeks later, on her birthday. Happily, wonderfully, romantically, it duly obliged on the very day, since growing immense in the inexcusably shoddy stone wall enclosure I built around it.

Last year, we made two cuts in the mypex sheeting, one to become a crescent herbaceous border, the other a shrubbery. In hushed whispers of apprehension and excitement, we carefully rolled back the sheeting. How much work would we have to do? Would we lift it and see coach grass and dock, bindweed and no, no it’s pure brown earth. We cheered and jigged a silly dance, and raked and dug out a few stones.

Then I went inside to do a couple of probably very important things while the Snapper worked for another seven hours, two days in a row, but believe me, it was a breeze. 

Beautiful soil. Puh. Nothing to it.

In the bed I cast my old seeds of marigold, love-in-a-mist, cornflower and poppy, and helped by the dry intense heat of last summer, we enjoyed wildflowers as wondrous as imagination itself.


My beetroots, planted commando among the wildflowers, looked sadly like an old fella’s plums, but the display as a whole was stunning. Unfortunately the lettuce suffered because I’d planted them on top of a massive stone, which only revealed itself when the garden flooded this winter.

Behind, on the shrubbery (aye, ‘tis impossible to write, say or I suspect read the word without a Python-esque ripple) we planted three roses: one a deep red, another a wild and rambling lilac and one white. We have three thriving fuchsia bushes and a forsythia that I’m still coming to understand. We have two purply thingies that I forget the name of which offer contrast to the Golden Brians (he’s not a bush he’s a very naughty boy) behind them. There are three cornus, offering different colours each season and a couple of hebes, ‘cos their name made me giggle.

Over in the hedge the Snapper has performed miracles. Working ceaselessly through the daylight evenings, armed only with a rather nice glass of Chardonnay, she has revealed and tended to all the native plants, so that now we have foxgloves by the zillion, flashes everywhere of primrose that’s akin to the sun landing on the lawn, anemones and Lords and Ladies.

We have no need to be down on ourselves. It’s so easy to obliterate the joy of having a garden by mutating it into a burden. As often as I can, on those rare sunny afternoons, I lie on my back, on the warm grass, just for a few minutes, appreciating the place in which I live.

Spring is obvious and glorious, yet to each of us it comes in a different way. For the Snapper, it will be Spring when she arrives home from work in daylight. For others it’s announced by the arresting sound of the dawn chorus or power tools, the bleat of lambs or the Ryanair tourist in a rental car asking the way.

As a grunty earth-dweller, Spring this year came for me in a surprisingly artificial way. I rotated the heater in my car from ‘windscreen’ to ‘face’ and turned the temperature from the red area to the blue, opening the window, feeling a blissful wave of relief run through me.

At last, my mental winter darkness lifts. I can start to enjoy the beauty of nature once again.

© Charlie Adley


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