The long awaited tulip season has begun with the first early bulbs bursting into bloom. Our new bulbs from Pieter Nyssan have come out and the monte orange was a flamboyant opener to the season. It was followed by Royal Acres and then Princess Irene and Cardinal Red. The bunches picked on the allotment are filling the house with their musky honey scent. In the courtyard, last years pink tulips in the central bed glow in the evening light. At the same time some of our new bulbs, apricot parrot tulips and belle epoch, have filled the troughs under the window with a warm glow during the day.
Elsewhere in the garden the Rosemary is flowering and the peony shoots have surfaced. On the allotment we have scattered Cosmo seeds in preparation for the floating flowers of Autumn and summers final call.
Under the magnolias and on the hill sides swathes of blue bells flourish. On our walk behind Blakeney Downs on Kettlehill Plantation their soft scent fills the air.
In Blakeney Cut the first tips of samphire can be seen just a few millimetres above the mud, a teaser of samphire on sourdough breakfasts to come. We have resumed our nightly visits to Mariners Hill, or Sunset Hill as we call it, to start the sunset season which lasts until October. The sun now sets North of Wells Pines and over the marsh in it yearly migration to The Point for the solstice. While not yet warm enough to sit with a cocktail, the colours of the evening sky make the trip magical.
Inland the rape fields are vibrant yellow and the countryside seems to glow in their warm reflection. All around wildlife pairs up and this pageant is played out most formally by the bowing pigeons on the rooftops and tree branches. In Holkham Hall’s deer park, and my driveway, the Tawny owls start to roost; their haunting calls drifting in the twilight.
In the kitchen gorse wine is set down, locking the coconut flavours in for a winters day. It will be at least nine months until it is ready.
And hurrah! We have tasted the first crab of the season from Andy’s Crab Shack! A true marker of the shift of the seasons.
First flowers of the year on the allotment!
The Equinox brings with it the return of longer days, seemingly all of a sudden. The clocks go forward and the evening is extended, so much so that we are now able to take the dog out for his evening walk after work. This treat lasts only six months for me between the Equinox.
The boats start to return to Blakeney Quay around Easter. In fact it marks quite a few things. My birthday being this time of year we usually have a rather elaborate tea with more cake than sense. Easter brings with it Mothering Sunday and daffodil walks. The world is bursting into bloom and bud. Blakeney Quay awakens and the tourists return for the first “busy” days of the season. (It feels busy compared to February but I suppose we are never as busy as the south coast, even in August)
The gorse is in full bloom and just to be on the Heath above Kelling or Salthouse is to walk through a cloud of coconut fragrance. Cuckoos have arrived on the marsh, and we found frog spawn in the garden. In the hedges primrose blooms and wild garlic unfurls.
This leads to many a tasty Spring treat. This year we have made wild garlic aioli, mayonnaise, and focaccia. (Try this recipe!) we were also advised to substitute the wild garlic in for leeks in potato soup by chef friend Jackson Campbell. For Easter we had 7 Hour Lamb which was amazingly tender.
In the garden the magnolias are in bloom and we all pray there are no frosts to spoil their glory. Itss fragility may make it all the sweeter. Winter jasmine adds to the yellow overtones of the floral season along with the daffs and primrose. In addition to the ipheion bulbs, our first tulips start to colour. It’s the start of a month or two of drama in the tulip beds.
Finally April brings with it some truly warm days, so long as you stay out of the wind. We often have our first picnics and BBQ’s on the beach and in the garden. The dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe provide good shelter, or under the cliffs at Weybourne.
Holidays: Mothering Sunday, Easter
Events: East Ruston old vicarage- Mother’s Day; Chestnut Farm – Snow Drop Walk
…with hellebores, bulbs, and Grey Seal Coffee.
This season is one of renewal and rebirth in nature. The Japanese calendar refers to it as “awakening of the hibernated (insects)”, but I like to think of in terms of colour; lime. A bright acid green is common to many new shoots before they mature into the various shades of green for the summer, and spring has it in abundance.
On of my favourite bright green plants of the this time of year is the Alexander. Last year we made a delicious chutney with aniseed flavours, but waited a bit too late when the stems had gone woody. This year we are doing it earlier. It is the first foraging produce of the year in our calendar.
The animals are awaking as well with the first frogs in the courtyard and driveway. Around the middle of the month the Great Tit returned to the birch over the courtyard to serenade us with his call. On the marsh, the swallows return as well as the chiffchaff.
The bulbs are in full swing with daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and snowdrops filling the gardens and churchyards of the area. Adding to the spectacle are leucojum. The afternoon sun has some warmth in it and we enjoyed our first afternoons sitting the courtyard in the swing. My favorite place to relax. And at the end of the season we can see the first tulip shoots, a sure sign of warmer weather on its way.
With all the bulbs out the large gardens have started to open to the public and for Mother’s Day we visited RHS Wisley this year.
The seedlings for the upcoming allotment year are soldiering on, adding the bright green tone of the season.
Holidays: Mother’s Day (UK)
Events: East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens open for daffodil season/Mother’s Day, 6/3/16 http://www.e-ruston-oldvicaragegardens.co.uk/pages/view/564/home.htm
Chestnut Farm snowdrop walk 3/3/16 and 6/3/16 http://www.ngs.org.uk/gardens/find-a-garden/garden.aspx?id=17225
The current season is Risshun or “start of spring” on the ancient Japanese seasonal calendar. This traditionally marked the New Year on the Japanese lunar calendar and seems an appropriate place to start for our 24 Seasons of Blakeney posts. At first “Spring” sounded overly optimistic for Norfolk this week, but on further reading is suggests that we are currently at peak cold and that things may gradually warm from here on in. Perhaps “spring coming” is closer to the truth. For our calendar I’ve decided on “Bright Cold” for Norfolk at this time of year.
The wild plum blossom in the hedgerow this time of year always makes me happy, and a bit nervous for their delicate blooms. But what a sign of the promise of Spring!
For several years in a row now we have gone down to the dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe for a winter walk on a bright sunny day. Mid afternoon has a lovely golden glow with the angle of the sun low in the sky. In photos it looks summer-bright, and aside from our wooly hats it could be mistaken for late afternoon in June. The angle also produces some lovely purple dawns this time of year and they are getting earlier. The pink-footed geese which this coast is known for, have been making their migration, with thousands in the sky. This year we have had a lot of weather from the south-west, where normally our winter winds are fixed in the North, so Snettisham has seen fewer than usual.
Tuesday I felt the first warmth in the sun for a long time while doing my semi-annual clean up of the courtyard. The snow drops and Tet a Tet bloomed while the heads of our mixed large narcissa pushed up among them. The allotment year has also started with the first chilli, tomato, and leek seeds going into the propagator.
Marek headed out for the first kayak of the season on a bright crisp morning. Pubs remain a season staple after our chilly walks, while root vegetables, lentils, and roasts make up most of our dinners. And of course Pancake day is another highlight! We are lucky enough to still have carrots from the allotment and winter greens like perpetual spinach to tide us over until spring’s first flush of new produce.
Events: Lexham Hall snowdrop walk 8/2 and 15/2
Holidays: Valentine’s Day 14/2
I have used italics to highlight the main features of the season.
What does this time of year mean to you? We welcome all ideas to add to this Norfolk Calendar!