The Garden Comes Alive; Welcome Guests and Ice Spike/Vase.

February can be a very unpredictable month. No sooner did I email our list of contacts about visiting to see the snowdrops and other spring bulbs, and suggesting that things would be at their best from mid-February onwards, than the weather changed, we had 5 days of sunshine and very light winds, and the garden came alive.

Although few of our early visitors timed their visit to catch such extraordinary honey bee activity in the garden, the snowdrop flowers were generally “open”, and showed their subtle variability.

However, in all our time here, we’ve never seen such frenzied bee activity on the Crocus tommasinianus which ribbon the front wall of the house. Last year, near-constant rain and gales in February meant that wave after wave of flowers simply grew, flopped, and failed, before any bees had a chance to visit them. This year the seed set will be immense, I expect, and even our C. sieberi ‘Firefly’ have been getting repeated pollination visits. Plus I filmed a (very rarely sighted) honey bee which was focused on collecting pollen from the Cyclamen coum. On the 9th, I even spotted our first bumble queen of the year, joining in the pollen and nectar fest on the Crocus

All this despite temperatures which stayed really quite chilly, peaking at 5 to 6 degrees C on most days.

This was truly a few days to remember and savour, and best appreciated in the short video below. Stills just can’t capture all the action which lifts such an experience to another level. 30 years of hard graft bearing fruit and the promise of even more real fruit – or seed – to supplement the show in the years to come.

Some of our first guests were our visiting American galanthophile friends, Michael and Carolyn, who returned to Gelli 6 years after their first trip, as part of a whistle-stop snowdrop garden and nursery tour in the UK. We greatly enjoyed our time shared, and I hope they get a chance to view the video sometime, and see how the grey Gelli gloom and drizzle lifted so spectacularly, beginning on the morning of their departure!

We’ve had several other lovely guests already – always a select band of intrepid souls who seek us out, and we’ve greatly enjoyed sharing this special place, and swapping stories with them.

I did mention to one group that I’d seen the first ice spike I’d witnessed in 3 years, or perhaps more correctly a very thinly sealed ice vase, the day before they arrived. A curiously thin-walled structure, which appeared in one of our blue bowls, nearly missed amongst the snowdrops for sale.

With lots of enquiries about visits to see the garden now dropping into our mailbox, it’s a challenge in a post lurgy fug for us both to keep on top of planning, timetabling and cake baking. However, it’s been greatly aided by our news-restricted existence these days. Nearly 2 months on, and I haven’t listened to any radio news or current affairs since December 20th, and restrict myself to a single brief scan of headlines once a day, and occasionally decide to read a single one of the featured stories in a little more detail.

Where did 55 years of my life go wrong, with its daily multiple bursts of “news” ??

I’m loving the extra thinking time and lack of negativity which has resulted from this divorce from the mainstream media agenda.

I shall leave you with the last 2 gorgeous cello and piano performances from a recently discovered CD of Dvorak pieces, titled “Silent Woods”, arranged and played with great emotional sensitivity by cellist Christian Poltéra and pianist Kathryn Stott. Very appropriate both in title and tone, since our garden silent space is now up and if not running, then a quiet feature in the garden.

The first is a beautiful arrangement of Rusalka’s song to the moon, from the eponymous opera, when the water nymph Rusalka sings for her love of a mortal prince.

The second of the pieces, completely new to me, “Laßt mich allein (Leave me alone)”, would currently make it into my desert island choices, I think. Or could indeed be a musical option to reflect upon after one has spent a moment of peace and quiet in a Silent Space

Leave me alone with my dreams,
Do not disturb the rapture in my heart!

This interpretation by Poltéra and Stott perfectly captures Dvorak’s re-working of the melody from this piece into his great cello concerto, completed after he’d discovered that his early flame, his sister-in-law Josephine, was terminally ill.

The final drifting away of the piano melody is a masterstroke. The lyrics of this love song by German poet, Otilie Malybrok-Stieler, can be found together with an English translation, here.

There is something of the lichen symbiosis I discussed last time, at work here, I think. Two nationalities and two instruments performing together and melding into something that surpasses the constituent parts. A true delight.