Winter in lockdown

The first time we were in lockdown it was a rather wonderful novelty. The sun shone, we took on allotments, tended our gardens and enjoyed our unexpected freedom from work, apart from those who could work from home. We got our bikes out and had them serviced, or bought new ones. Of course, there were tragedies but few people in Salisbury were affected.

Then there was another lockdown just before Christmas – it had to be a lean Christmas and so, so sad not to be able to enjoy a good get together with friends and family.

But here we are again and, as I write the blackbirds are singing, there are blue tits exploring nesting sites and this morning I saw a nuthatch scurrying up a tree trunk. Spring is definitely on its way. The hazel catkins this year really do seem more vividly yellow than usual and several times I’ve noticed them combined with wild rose hips – I’m noting this combination for a design which will allow a wild area, perhaps where the children like to make dens.

On this wild theme, ivy is a much maligned but interesting plant. It’s one of the best for bird nesting. More than 140 species of insect and 17 species of bird feed on ivy in Britain. I’ve seen pigeons clumsily trying to eat ivy fruits at this time of year when there isn’t much food about. Ivy’s reputation for damaging trees is also not entirely true either. It may bring down an old weak tree but not a healthy one.

Its ‘ecosystem services’ are becoming increasingly recognised. When grown on walls, they provide thermal insulation, which means houses stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and ivies improve air quality by trapping particulates.

On a more horticultural theme, if you want to plant trees, hedges, soft fruit, such as gooseberries and currants you need to plant them before mid March. I still have leeks in the ground, plenty of kale and self seeding rocket all over the plot, and this weekend I’ll start “chitting” potatoes, a word which origins from “chit” as in small child. It’s a process of encouraging the potatoes to produce shoots.

And so the cycle repeats.