As the soil warms and the first bulb shoots break through, all signs point to spring on Plot 29
The anxious scan along a row, the concerned look for broken soil. There is something almost like parenting about planting and sowing. Never more so than with spring bulbs. Burying hopes in dank cold earth, covering them with care. Worrying about them buried for months in the frozen dark, waiting for them to break through.
Snowdrops and crocuses are usually first – my concerns switch to whether they are too early. The order of unveiling follows more easily. At home the potted paperwhites are earliest. Stems like small zombie fingers escaping the grave. Next, the daffodils, the Lenten lilies, like hands with nails – bigger, bolder, more confident. Last, the tulips, the earth cracking like from a quake. The fat stems pushing through signal winter is losing its hold.
The first bulbs I grew – maybe you, too – were forced hyacinths at primary school, grown indoors for my mum, to be ready for Christmas. Violet bulbs suspended over water in glass vases. A living thing to care for, it grew in blues and pinks for boys and girls. The scent when it flowered was overpowering, like bringing a church service inside.
As I write, there are pots of paperwhites in the kitchen. A couple more on the roof terrace more slowly unfurl. Another anxious wait.
A large pot of daffodils are not far behind. The tulips will patiently wait their turn. Winter hasn’t yet had its last say. Though the sunrise is set to leap ahead of 7am, the 14-day forecast for night is still cool.
In Denmark, too, our snowdrops are stirring, spring flowering coming awake. I hope the cut Christmas tree branches sheltered the early crocus. For now, though, I continuously check on the pots at home, like a proud dad on the first day of term.