The Roman Goddess of Spring and Fertility was known as Flora, whereas the Saxons gave that honour to Oestre. Christians celebrate the festival of Easter as a time of rebirth and renewal. Historically, Spring has always started on the night of the vernal equinox of 20/21 March, though this year the Met Office claimed the first day of Spring was actually the first of March. It’s an interesting question. When does Spring officially start?
Regardless of the debate about the exact date, the time of fertility and renewal at Barleycorn, happens during the month of April when large drifts of golden daffodils, and their numerous hybrid cousins, bursting forth like so many trumpets joining together in unison, herald the arrival of Spring in all its splendour.
Even on rainy days, each flower seems to proffer a cup of golden sunshine in thanksgiving to the Goddess of Spring. Joining them in the dance are little posies of blue grape-hyacinths, upright scented purple and white honesty, acid-green euphorbia, sulphur-yellow primroses, colourful primula and the velvet-like blooms of polyanthus, while large swathes of pink, white and blue forget-me-nots jostle for space in tulip-filled beds, and meander along the curving paths, creating an air of informality.Catkins of silver birches, like so many lambs’ tails, dance up and down in the spring breezes, and lush green leaves emerge gradually to clothe the slender branches with a shimmering new spring coat, while numerous little birds pay homage by singing their melodious bursts of song to establish their territories and attract a mate.
Along the margins of the ponds, the first plants offering a burst of sunshine are members of the buttercup family, the bright yellow marsh marigolds, attributed in Mediaeval times to the Virgin Mary as Mary Gold, with their shiny succulent leaves and flowers which open at the rising of the sun and close at its setting.
April is the month in which I was born, and each birthday, as I start a new year in my life, I am smitten by the infectious joys of Spring, which never fail to create a frisson of excitement in me, for, along with all the frenzy of daily change in the garden, with larks bursting into joyous rapture and the cries of baby lambs bleating from the adjacent field, I, too, am filled with a sense of hope and renewal, and an awareness of being part of the magical blessing of Spring, as my heart rejoices and I am reborn once again.