It was the smell that gave me a shock. I took a shortcut through Ravenscourt Park, rounded a corner, and was hit by a midsummer blast of mown grass – the sweetest of all garden smells. The early daffodils lined the path, magnolias were opening their buds, a big mimosa had almost finished flowering, crocuses dotted the lawn and the cherry decorating the path with its fallen petals was not Prunus autumnalis. We have to reclassify Jasminum polyanthum now from pot plant to exceedingly vigorous climber.
This must be the strangest winter London has ever seen. March may blast it all away, of course, but I am more worried about the spring. There won’t be one if it’s all happened already.
Anticipation is so important. Excitement as each bud opens and flowers gradually make their appearance. But what if you are looking forward to a concert and you keep hearing the soloists, with no warning, loosing off in the street, under your window, out of context? In the end, there is no concert; they have all sung their hearts out and have nothing left to give. That’s what I fear. Last year Bonfire Night dragged on for weeks as people let off their fireworks whenever they felt like it. I don’t want to see spring dissipated, limping along week after week.
Every gardener will have his own tale of cock-eyed timing. Roger Taylor of Taylor’s Bulbs tells me that his Lincolnshire daffs started flowering in sync with Cornwall’s – spoiling both their markets. There is hawthorn in leaf in roadside hedgerows. And my own: Pelargonium x ardens, the fiery-red one that sprawls over its neighbours in late summer, has shot straight up three feet like a tree sapling and is flowering in the apex of the greenhouse roof.