In between the sun, rain, wind and frost small signs pop up in our gardens to show us that the winter’s days are drawing to a close and spring is finally creeping its way in.
According to official records the first flowering of Magnolia campbellii champion trees signifies the start of spring in our sub-tropical climate of the West Country but the fauna and flora give a few extra clues it’s on its way, here is a run down of what to look out for:
Daffodils – The most obvious spring signal, these yellow beauties have been known to pop up in mild Decembers before being blighted by colder January but the fields of daffodils spring to life from mid February bringing a burst of colour to the countryside
Birdsong – Migrant birds such as Swallows, House Martins and Chiff Chaffs appear from late February and early mornings are transformed into a medley of sounds from birds returning from warmer climates to enjoy all that the English spring has to offer.
Bees – Once the spring flowers appear bees can be seen enjoying the fresh nectar after a winter of sleepiness and as they are in sharp decline encourage them into your gardens as much as possible by planting early flowering plants. Did you know that the pollen from spring flowers can change the taste of honey? It tends to be a much fresher taste in the early months of the year.
Catkins – Signifying that the trees are waking from their winter slumber catkins are single sex flower clusters that hang down from trees hoping to use the wind for pollination, most well know is the “Lambs tails” which are the male flowers of Hazel trees. Other trees such as oak, alder, birch, poplar, beech, hornbeam, sweet chestnut, hazel and willow also produce these in early spring.
Wild Garlic & Snowdrops – These two plants often appear at the same time, and usually grow in close proximity showering meadows and wild areas with white flowers and the fresh smell of garlic. Pick garlic leaves to add to soups, pies, roasts or make a beautiful pesto with it as follows:
100g wild garlic
50g Parmesan grated
50g hazelnuts, skinned & toasted
lemon juice, to taste
salt & pepper
Thoroughly wash your wild garlic and place in a food processor, blitz until fairly well broken up.
Next add your Parmesan and process further, this will help to break down the garlic leaves.
Finally add your hazelnuts.
When the nuts are added you will want to have your olive oil to hand; turn the machine back on, and add olive oil to your desired consistency.
Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste – use on pasta, meats and as a finishing touch.
You can always make this more traditionally and slowly in a pestle and mortar too.