It has been such a long winter that the sight of fruit blossom feels like a deliciously cool glass of water on a baking-hot day. This small cherry tree in my mother-in-law’s garden is such a pretty sight, covered in just enough pale pink blossom to be absolutely beautiful rather than blowsy. We had a flying visit to Norfolk for a couple of days this week to see David’s mum and help to get her garden ready for the growing season ahead. After all the gardening she’s done for us over the years, we wanted to repay some of her kindness and do as many of the heavy and physically demanding jobs for her as we could. We chopped, sawed, lopped, dug and planted, and it was wonderful to be outside in the spring sunshine. There have been precious few days so far this year when we’ve been able to be outside for any length of time, let alone get very much done, so it was a great feeling. We drove home rather tired but pleased that we’d prevented the possibility of her trying to climb ladders to chop branches (which has been known!).

Back home, the boys (they didn’t come with us) are busy revising for their important exams in May/June. Well, I say they’re busy revising but there is mostly going to bed late and getting up late, eating Everything In The House and quite a bit of other displacement activity. The sound of guitar strumming drifts from both of their rooms at frequent intervals but I suppose that’s a great way to relax your brain in between re-reading Jekyll and Hyde for English Literature or trying to get to grips with social influence in Psychology. I’ve been super-busy with editing work, so the three of us are getting through a lot of coffee and Easter chocolate!

To add to all the excitement, it was our Village Spring Show today. In an attempt to keep my stress levels below danger point, I only entered some daffs (came second), muscari (again, second) and a badly printed photo (nada). Baking maestro, David, entered a Brioche Loaf (and won; see below) and my daughter entered an Apple Pie, coming joint first with the other entry in that class. (A photo of her delicious pie is on my Instagram account.)

One of the perks of being on the Gardener’s Association committee is that you get to do all  the clearing up afterwards, which means that you can rescue any left-behind flowers. These beauties were mostly not grown by me!

We’re getting up early tomorrow to drive to Great Dixter’s Spring Plant Fair. I can’t wait – I have cash in my pocket and a mind full of spring gardening thoughts. If that wasn’t enough, we have more of David’s baking for dinner – garlic and olive rolls – to go with spaghetti Bolognese (cooked by me, I hasten to add). My heart and my tummy will be full.

Wishing you a lovely rest of the weekend.


Operation bee rescue

I was rummaging around in the greenhouse yesterday when I spotted an enormous bumble bee on the floor. She (I’ve no idea whether it was female but I’ve decided it was for narrative purposes) looked a bit done-in, still alive but definitely on her last legs. I lifted her carefully onto a plant tray and carried her outside, then rushed indoors to make some sugar water –  I remembered this is The Thing To Do for exhausted bees from CT’s excellent blog (she is my go-to person for wildlife info). I squirted a pea-size of honey onto a spoon, added a little water and mixed it together, then I carefully put the spoon under the bee’s head. Amazingly, she stuck out her proboscis and started drinking with great big thirsty gulps! I actually spilt the liquid off the spoon in my excitement and called my daughter to bring her phone to video this Wonder of Nature. We both knelt down and watched the bee drink her fill, both awe-struck and full of delight that we were helping her. She took a while, then had a little wander around on the tray, cleaning the dust off her back, head and antennae with her legs, drank a little more then buzzed her wings a little. She took a couple of practise flights, lifting hesitantly off the tray and landing again. And then – hoorah – she flew off. Oh yeah!

I like to think that our bee is will survive for as long as possible, visit all our bee-friendly flowers, drink the nectar and pollinate as she goes. I was going to show you a little video of our bee drinking the spilt sugar-water but WordPress won’t let me upload it. I’d have to set it up on YouTube and link to it and, frankly, I can’t be bothered at this time on a Saturday evening after a day spent gardening and a couple of glasses of wine! I’ll just have to show you this rather rubbish photo instead but at least you can see her proboscis. It was amazing. Bees are amazing.

In other news, the village spring show last weekend was a rip-roaring success for David – his hot cross buns won an actual cup! Well, it looks more like a peculiar silver gravy boat, but it’s The Cup for best home produce. He was pretty chuffed. My two children made fabulous decorated Easter cakes (see below) but were beaten to the cash prize by a lovely, chocolate mini-egg confection. It’s good to learn how to lose gracefully… I was busy helping with the show so I only entered two daffodil categories (coming third in one) and the single tulip category (again coming third).

It’s all go in the garden this Easter weekend. We’ve been clearing brambles and other weeds, preparing ground, planting trees and fruit bushes (photos coming soon), weeding and weeding. Did I say weeding? It’s been glorious out there but the earth is so dry. We badly need rain – some is forecast for tomorrow, so I hope it appears. Everything in the garden needs a good drink and our aching bodies need a rest.

Whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re having a lovely long weekend and I wish you a very happy Easter.