Sunday, 16 February 2014

"The Sparrow Loves Berlin's Chaos"

... though instead of 'chaos' some choose the word "mess". 
Our mayor gaily coined the phrase "Berlin is poor, but sexy". And when the sparrows heard this they came in flocks to this wonderful city - opposite of our house about 70 of them sit in a huge bush (that is not a poetic hyperbole!) and yell - maybe they have worn headphones far too long, or went to too many rock concerts and thus are as deaf as many of our poor kids I see hear every day in the underground... 
In many regions of Middle Europe the population of sparrows has diminuished rapidly  - mostly because refurbished buildings don't offer many breeding sites in niches and cavities anymore. And there is not much sand to be found any longer, which they need to take their 'bath'. Cities for sparrows must not be too orderly - otherwise not even the best winter feeding will help. 
In Berlin they thrive, and  you see signposts in many Berlin restaurants in summer: "Please don't feed the sparrows" - because they are a real plague, jumping onto your plate with cake while you eat - wink insolently at you and munch. As they did to my utter astonishment at McDonald's: there are whole sparrow families living solely on French fries - though I think I don't see them here on our balcony on the second store, too obese by now... 
I read in an article that from most birds - we have about 200 species in Germany - only 15 come regularly to feeding places in gardens or balconies. 
Though I see in the year a wide variety of birds on my balcony (well - "wide" for a city), for feeding come mostly sparrows, followed closely by - sparrows, then five Brothers in Arms, meaning the great titmouse (I know them personally), and sometimes comes a blue tit (then I get excited - I love their heavenly blue!), while the Eurasian jay waits till warmer times to dig in my box pots. And magpies and doves and crows fly past, thank you very much, and the wren, blackbirds (who sang this morning for the very first time since late autumn), robins, a great spotted woodpecker  and even nightingales prefer to bustle in our huge and wild backyard. 
Today, after years of uncertainty, I got a bird riddle solved: I learned from Joanne Noragon's blog "Cup on the Bus" that in the time of my garden in Hildesheim we once had tufted titmice as guests. 
At that time I thought the mysterious birds wore a 'quiff'. 
Elvis - Reloaded.  

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

"When my time comes, I have to flower" - Snowdrops once again

Britta Huegel

little ballerinas - so fragile-looking in their white tutu - and, like dancers serving up Illusions: both, dancer and flower, are working hard and unrelenting against gravity. 
I love them in their simple form - elegant Art Nouveau style snowdrops, with a hint of virginity about them - their frilly sisters, the 'filled' ones (I hope you will kindly tell me the adequate term) are not my cup of tea. 
Snowdrops balance on the line that divides winter from spring - the quote in the headline is from a snowdrop-poem that the German poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote. And the author Robert Walser (rough translation by me) remarked: 

"They still talk about winter; but also of spring; they speak of the past, though at the same time boldly and cheerfully of the new. They talk about coldness and yet already about more warmth; they say: There is still a lot of snow near the shadows and on the heights, but in the sun it has already melted. Still there can come quite a lot of roughness. You can't trust April."

You, my ardent reader, will startle at this last sentence. "April?" you will ask. "When I look into the front gardens they are already here!" I know - but Walser lived in Switzerland, and there many things come a bit later. 
In our gardens you will mostly find Galanthus nivalis - the 'common' snowdrop, though there are - as Vita Sackville-West points out - 14 different species (and not all are flowering in spring). 
I saw a beautiful little video on youtube - filmed by Artur Homan for Sir David Attenborough, called "Early Spring" - indulge in those 2 mesmerizing minutes! I cannot load it up, but here is the link: it is worth to paste and watch it.
As a practical gardener you have to plant snowdrops 'in the green' (if you take dry bulbs they often don't flower for years). Then, hopefully they spread - left on their own they weave huge carpets of white and green in the woods.  
In 'The Morville Hours' Katherine Swift mentions an 'Old Tom the shepherd': 

"(...) who has been planting snowdrops for more than fifty years. He started in 1953, the year he married. The date was written in snowdrops on the front lawn of his cottage, flanked by two snowdrop pheasants (...). He lives at Broncroft Parks, (...) he used every year to take clumps of snowdrops from the banks of the brook and plant them out along the lanes, each year a little further - from Broncroft Parks to Broncroft; and on towards Broncroft Castle: and now other people (...) do the same (...) spreading the snowdrops from Broncroft to Broadstone, from Broadstone to Tugford, from Tugford to Holdgate, lining the lanes with snowdrops, a ribbon of white." p.65

That sounds so marvellous! 
And as inviting as the Scottish Snowdrop Festival: 

Have you ever been there? 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

If a snowdrop can come through the frozen earth, I can be persistent too - and write again.

Britta Huegel

Yesterday I started to clean up our balcony. 
"What? You did what?" gasped a friend of mine. "That's way too early!" Maybe. 
But the weather was fine. I don't want to insult true Berlin-born inhabitants, but we had a blue-white Bavarian sky smiling down on us. No snow, temperatures about +5°C - and a weatherforecast that predicts it will remain so for some time. 
I longed to have my tiny little slice of nature back! Had looked long enough on opaque blister foile which did its job, but wasn't beautiful. 
So I lifted the veil. 
AH! The scarlet blossoms of the Chinese quince have survived! Bliss! And, and, and... 
This winter I did a lot of hard thinking. 
- 1. I saw that a lot of people still read my blog, although I haven't written since November. 
- 2. I told myself that it is absolutely ridiculous that I feel like an imposter - because my garden is (still)  in Hildesheim, but I am in Berlin. So what? Can I still 'publish' some of the texts I wrote there? You bet! All fiction is - fiction. Though my garden-fiction has real roots - to stay in the garden metaphor. Might see those texts as a sort of seed. 
- 3. Balcony alone is not enough. But I hate it when people always moan about what they don't have. I have so much: in Berlin and elsewhere I'm showered with botany. 
So I decided: 
        a) I will tell you about the plants on my balcony - hence the  snowdrop, which I will deal with in the next post - hopefully to amuse you and enrich your knowledge - though it might well be that you will enrich mine - you are oh so welcome to comment!  
        b) I will try to add my own photographs 
        c) and sometimes add quotes and poems of real poets  
        d) and - when I find them (and am allowed to take a picture)                 show you how painters and artists saw the flower. 
        d) and give you tips on beautiful gardens and parks -                           Germany and Great Britain, or As My Wimsey Takes Me, meaning wherever I choose to go. 
Sounds good? 
I will write (about) every second week. 
This way I can further indulge in my love to flowers, plants, and botany - and we can exchange our experiences. 
I know that contrary to the common prejudice gardeners like to talk. At least those in blogland. 
So let's start!