“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.”
— Audra Foveo
I can never really describe Spring. I will never do her justice. But in my few attempts, I change, I become the hopeful, optimistic soul who stops and stares at blossoms when they appear. Full knowing that whilst I have endured winter, some good, some soulless and questioning, Spring has been pushing through the darkest soil to present the gift.
The English countryside transforms. Birdsong comes a little earlier, at first light, with happy tunes. Leaves unfurl in verdant lime. It is as if I can see them from curling to show. Nature lays her bounty before me and I am enthralled, my soul transformed, the year begins again.
When the time comes, I love nothing more than a walk from Richmond Station to Ham House. All that has been dormant, comes alive in so many ways. The Thames lifts her veil of mist to glitter in the sunlight, brooding waters, lovely in winter, is now filled with coots, swans and geese who chatter and fly rather than lament in low sounds at the water’s edge.
Ham House has planted nearly 500. 000 bulbs this year. The early crocuses are shown and gone, the tulips rise majestically and the meadow flowers will bloom in June. In the Wilderness, the fritillaries pop up everywhere, hooded blooms with their polka dot dresses.
Happy girls. Happy me. I feel the awakening of myself at Spring. God knows I love Christmas in London, and then struggle with the aftermath of winter in January and February, but March, I find the reason in the season and am all about lambs gambolling and fields of poetry. When I do my tours at Ham, I am over the top sort of about Spring! You have to imagine, I tell my guests, what beauty lay beneath and what the next few months will bring. You have to imagine the pushing up of bulbs, the heralding of branches and fruits that will yield in the Kitchen garden. Soup becomes salad. And the blossoms are everywhere. Cherries, peaches, apricots and plums. White mischief and pink possibilities.
My mother was Dutch, and for me Spring is our connecting time. I see her there. It is not easy to grow tulips in South Africa, some bloom, some stay dormant, but here in England, and of course when I go to Keukenhof in Holland, there are rivers of tulips at this time. They are delicate ladies, need little water in vases but they are the stuff of the Golden Age, the Masters of the 17th Century and I see my mother in every one of them. And I miss her at this time, but am happy that I can still enjoy what she enjoyed so very much. It is my Dutch heritage that is the tulip Spring.
Many years ago, and I mean many, many years ago, I discovered Petersham nurseries. Long before it became the stuff of popularity and Instagramming. Before parking became a problem and all were in ‘on the secret.’ Even before I lived here. It is now part of my weekly walk. I buy my David Austen roses here. My vases here and my spot for coffee in one of the conservatories. Bought my mushroom brush here. My first huge, and I mean huge container that we had to transport in the tiniest car and still holds pride of place on my balcony – which will go to pride of place on my children’s balcony. How we did it, I don’t know, squashed in a little car, mermaid, and plonked on the balcony, first with a crab apple tree and now with ‘Litchfield Angel.’ She is about to bloom, a multitude of cinnamon sweetness.
And then there are the magnolias. This one is in the Petersham Cemetery, where the Dysarts are buried. They are important to me, they are the family from Ham House. Some may think it a little macabre but I find it all the more significant in the spring. There is history here, important history and for me, seeing the new blossoms in a way, is paying tribute to the new and the old.
We learn. We stay connected. I am a better person for learning about Elizabeth and her family and I can take that with me through the years for we must honour those who loved Spring before us. I find myself here, in a quiet time of her, her family and all those lying here, some going to war and never to return in life, some who lived here and never travelled, who teach me everyday about strength in adversity and still made it good. They are important. Spring for me, teaches me that every year when it happens, we are grateful to be part of it. New beginnings but also remembrance. Gosh I love being here!
So I walk, past Ham, past Petersham, past the meadow and along the river to Richmond. And I am still walking – for it is a new year, with so many possibilities and so much hope. That is what Spring, or as the French call it Printemps, and you know how much I love the French. it is a revival of sorts, a Renaissance of life, a chance to start over – or make it better. And I am lost in Spring – I am the one on the way to the tube taking pictures of flowers and beguiled by the birdsong – I have survived another winter and the year, oh, this year, is going to be amazing.
Spring must mean another chance. It must mean a beginning of self. For me, Spring is the epitome of growth, despite the challenges and if a bulb can push through the winter soil, to flourish and bloom, so can I.
Do we look more closely to the blossoms as we grown older? Do we value Spring more closely? I do – and for me, it means I am still about to bloom again.
What does Spring mean to you?