Hark, hark the Lark

The skylarks have returned and at every glimmer of sunshine ascend in a paroxysm of delight. There are noisy gatherings of Oystercatchers speed dating in the field, and the lapwings are practising sky dancing aerobatics to advertise their prowess as a sign of their parental fitness. To earthbound mortals the song of the lark is a clarion call, time to finish the winter maintenance and start planting seeds rather than perusing seed catalogues.

winter chores

March is a capricious and seductive month, a flirty chameleon capable of switching its wintry hues to reveal tantalising glimpses of spring green. Traditionally it begins with strong winds, torrential rain and squalls of hail and as the equinox approaches it can deceive with calm days full of soft spring sunshine before departing with a tail lashing of stormy days. Infected with the mania of “mad March hares” we rush around trying to squeeze in a little gardening between the routine chores of clearing the gutters, collecting the accumulation of winter storm debris and the endless task of spreading muck, seaweed and garden compost to replace the precious top soil swept away in the tumult of the westerly gales.

Tackling the rebuilding the fruit cages after two stormy winters has now become a priority. The side netting needs new and even bigger batons to hold it firmly in place and the roof netting, torn to shreds and hanging like Spanish moss from the rafters, has to be completely replaced. This will be the third redesign and repair of the roof, and as I’ve just ordered another 1000 stainless steel screws I hope it will last longer than the previous version. Garden projects designed and built by the Head Gardener have always been constructed to last until the next millennium, but here, however much we over-engineer and try to compensate for the weather, it is never quite enough. I begin to empathise with Sisyphus endlessly rolling the boulder up the hill and wonder how I had managed to offend the gods to such an extent as to be condemned to eternal repairing of storm damage.

Bronze fennel shoots

The garden sleeps on, oblivious to all the activity as I clump around the garden trying not to damage any tender new shoots which may be lurking beneath the piles of wind-blown stems and old leaves. Carefully the winter debris is collected and the new growth exposed. The young, tender leaves are bejewelled with crystals of rain and are vulnerable to the cold northerly winds and the nip of a frosty morning. The power of the sun on a calm afternoon is just enough to stir a hibernating bumblebee, but they soon retreat as the garden has nothing to offer other than a few bedraggled primroses.

March primroses

There are times when I am envious of the glorious displays of bulbs and blossoms in more temperate gardens, but for all it’s capriciousness March like the larks is a welcome harbinger of spring. There is the anticipation of discovering what has survived the winter, the gift of finding some self-sown plants and the joy of watching the new growth emerge. Best of all I still have the spring flowers to come and I’m anxiously waiting to see if one of the apple trees will produce a sprig of blossom.
This morning a perfect line of 21 swans flew low across the water, stark white against a dark indigo sky. Resolutely heading north-west, each wing beat perfectly synchronised, beauty in perpetual motion. The children of Lir are departing once more and now I know that the season has changed and spring has arrived.

Alliums and aquilegias
Alliums and aquilegias

15 thoughts on “Hark, hark the Lark

  1. Really lovely post, I enjoyed every evocative word. We have been listening to Skylarks too this week, a beautiful sound and like you are still finishing winter jobs. I hope Spring brings you more sunshine and a respite from the gales.

    • Like you I’m fortunate enough to mix my gardening with natural history, it adds an extra dimension to the whole experience. Sunshine is rather scarce at present, but it’s not too windy and I’ll settle for that anyday.

  2. So glad that spring has arrived up in the frozen north and that you have exultations of larks to delight you. And a wedge of swans.

    • I think the spring may be slowly arriving, at least the birds think so. geese busy feeding all around the house today – I’ve enough grass to spare so I don’t mind. Just waiting for the big flypast of Barnacle Geese from Ireland and Islay on their way north – due any day now.

  3. Great to hear and see that spring is on the way in your beautiful part of the world. And you have such wonderful bird life to enjoy, even if the spring flowers are a little later than ‘down South,
    Best wishes

    • The birdlife is all commings and goings at present,l so plenty of activity to divert my attention. Weneed a little more sunshine and warmth to get the flowers going, although there are a new scillas in flower and the I’m sure the muscari will be next.

  4. Beautifully written, and interesting too. Thank you for your care and time in writing!

  5. Good luck with all the work. Love the primroses.

    • Thank you. the primroses flower here almost all year round, but they are their probably at their best now. A few dry days and their glory has returned just in time for Easter.

  6. Liz Morton

    Your post brought joy to my heart on this day,the funeral of my brother in Kent. What beauty you are seeing & I’m right there with you.

    • My deepest sympathy. I will think of you as I take my morning stroll round the garden and listen to the larks.

  7. ‘Flirty chameleon’ – I like that description of March . It is certainly always a time of discovery, wherever we live in the UK and whatever the month throws at us in terms of weather. Wishing you many more happy discoveries and hope you get that boulder to the top of the hill soon! ps I am sure there is a reason why the only time I have heard and seen larks was on Orkney…

    • Thank you, I was quite pleased with “flirty chameleon” too. We might get the boulder up to the top of the hill next week, but then it will roll down slowly or very quickly, subject to weather of course. However, there are always plenty of distractions. We played truant yesterday and went to look for shells on Charlie’s beach on Eriskay.
      As for skylarks, as with so much of our wildlife, it has payed the price for modern agricultural practices and is now uncommon in many parts of England.

      • I guessed that would be the case for the skylarks… 🙁
        ps keep shoving that boulder!

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