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Herb-Garden-July

After the recent gales I am minded of that old Flanders and Swan take on the English weather: “Farmers fear unkindly May, Frost by night and hail by day…”. One storm tore down an ancient willow at the entrance to the Nature Reserve, narrowly missing the Visitor Centre and destroying the bees’ nest and birds’ nests which were lodged within. Another has ripped all the new shoots off the roses. The fact that the sun smiles sweetly afterwards merely adds insult to injury! This is Spring, surely, and spring weather should, by rights, be leading us gently towards the balmy delights of summer. How did November temperatures creep in? The ducklings are shivering. The young beech leaves are burnt brown at the edges. And we can’t get the garden furniture out.

Such speculations have led me to take a closer look at what really happens as spring progresses. And I find something infinitely more complex than our general preconceptions allow for. It seems there is not one cycle of the seasons, but cycles within cycles. Just now it is autumn for the oxlips, which have gone to seed and the celandines, which have already yellowed and wilted back into the earth. As gardeners and lovers of beauty we are preoccupied with things in their prime, things in bud and bloom, or with the first fruits before decay steps in. I have always found it disturbing that the rowan berries add autumnal notes to high summer. And that baby lambs, ducklings, goslings have so brief a babyhood and grow into lumpish juveniles so fast. Wanting to hold things in bud, keep the promise of more, makes us busy with our secateurs, forever anxious for a repeat-flowering! But nature seems more interested in transition. Everything depends on the flow. And the moment is nothing without it. Therefore the baby ducks are expendable if a hungry heron wants them. And there is scant respect for the tenderest shoots, if the energies of heaven are making rain. Going with the flow is an acquired art. But watching what has come and gone each day, without interfering, is maybe one way to approach it. At nine o’clock the last of the day’s light is fading from the clouds. The birds are uttering their last warning cries as they decide where to go to roost. Time to go in, shut down, draw the curtains. But the world outside is still just waking up. The pipistrelle bats are emerging to hunt up and down the corridors between the trees. White moths, fat slugs, owls, foxes are abroad and whatever will make a new home in rotting wood is already exploring those shattered willow branches. This new focus can replace all rage and disappointment at Nature’s inclemency, with simple astonishment.

For the chance to see our piglets while they are still babies, or to catch the wild roses, campions and foxgloves before they go over, hurry and visit the Reserve. Now for my umbrella, it’s tipping it down again.