PHIL CALVERT: Time flies when you’re looking out for spring

I REMEMBER writing just a few weeks ago about everyone being desperate for spring and discussing at what point we can say spring is sprung.

Back in February and March we were just emerging from a very harsh winter when deep penetrating frosts held the land in their grip for weeks and we broke records for low temperatures with -15 degrees Centigrade a frequent occurrence with the odd -19 degrees thrown in for good measure.

I suggested spring is sprung not when we see the first sleepy bumblebee emerge, or perhaps the first flower appear on aubrietia, but that one day you’ll just know.

In actual fact spring looked like it was running late for a time and then suddenly, you realise you have been working without a fleece on and that before we knew it, the daffodils were history. Early stuff was late, and late stuff was very early, and all because of the incredible weather we enjoyed in April. We barely saw an April shower and dry sunny weather was the norm, spoilt only by the blustery and chilly easterly winds at the end of the month. It is amazing how time flies.

Since then the crocus, daffs and primroses have been and gone. Flowers on the forsythia, flowering currant and daphne have been and gone and even though we are only at the beginning of May, many rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias have finished flowering with the azaleas approaching their peak.


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Just two weeks ago the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, while now our driveway is covered in the brownish confetti of fallen petals. It has happened so quickly.

We are used to the meteorologists telling us it has been “the coldest winter since...whenever” or “the wettest whatever on record”. Now it seems another record has been smashed.

Firstly, it was the driest April in 70 years, now the driest since proper records were started in 1910 with temperatures recorded usually seen only in high summer. For gardeners who have been on the ball, this weather has allowed something of a flying start to the gardening season. I was delivering to one customer and his tomatoes had reached the greenhouse roof and their tips had been pinched out.

The biggest issue seems to have been just to make sure you keep newly-planted stuff watered.


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Mature plants can largely be left to their own devices, but the recently planted out things have been prone to drying out in the blustery wind and under sunny skies, and careful watering has been required.

Before we all get carried away and we think summer is here, it is a sign of the good gardener that he checks the weather forecast daily during May. Late spring frosts are the bane of gardeners’ lives during May and wonderful sunny days can mean clear nights with frost a possibility. If ground frost is forecast a simple covering of polythene, paper, but best of all horticultural fleece, can take the sting out of low temperatures and keep young tender plants snug. Quite a change from the icy conditions of February. Time flies.

Indeed, back in February my youngest daughter was planning her 21st birthday party celebrations with her mum, Wifey, on what is for me possibly the most inconvenient day of the year, May 1st. Shoes had to be bought, a new party dress found, invitations sent out and venue booking confirmed. Quite a busy schedule really.

So it was that last Sunday my baby girl invited some friends round to our house (following a whistle-stop tidy around) for a pre-party drink. Our kitchen took on all the characteristics of the catwalk at some fancy London or Parisian fashion show as about 20 pretty girls wearing amazingly high heels, and dazzling dresses, filled our kitchen with legs. My baby girl had grown up.


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The days of the first bicycle ride, swimming her first length of the swimming pool, climbing Pendle aged just three and the hours playing catch, tennis and footie on the drive are long gone.

No longer do we walk her up to school in the morning, build sandcastles on the beach at Whitby with her sister and best friends (long since moved away but still close) or spend hours in the freezing cold watching her play winter league netball.

Sadly, those days are long gone, but it has been time well spent, and with the passing of time our scruffy little tom-boy has grown into a beautiful young woman, ready to take on the world (though she is still occasionally daft as a brush).

Like this spring, it all seems to have happened so quickly, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Being a proud dad is easily the best thing I have ever done.


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So don’t wish your time away. In due course, summer will once more be with us, holidays will come and go and then seemingly in a blink be no more than a memory. Tempus fugit…time flies!