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Down to Earth: After darkness comes the light

In the garden as in life, we have to go through dark times in order to see the light, writes Cambridge designer Robert Barker

Spring bulbs are the light after winter's dark, says Robert Barker (55848649)
Spring bulbs are the light after winter's dark, says Robert Barker (55848649)

April brings without a doubt one of my favourite times of the year. I know for some they rely on the equinox to help declare when spring has arrived, but I think that the start of spring is something you feel. When the calendar page turns to April there is a decent chance that those grey bleak winter skies are behind us and you can feel hope in the air.

I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with joy when the spring sun hits the fresh new leaves on the trees and highlights the explosion of scent and colour that is all around us. As a garden designer April is not only a busy time but it is also the best time to be reminded that I am not just creating two dimensional plans and dealing with day-to-day admin, but I am creating living breathing environments and nothing reminds me of this more than the sight of tulips that appear in April.

Garden bulbs, such as tulips and alliums, never cease to amaze me, even after all these years. I just can’t get over the fact that a bulb, something that can fit into the palm of your hand, can produce such an amazing flowering spectacle. This lasts for a few weeks, and then gradually it wilts before returning to its deep sleep until the following year.

This process takes me back to my time studying Buddhism while living in London where I learnt that when we experience something as wonderful as the sight of new life within our gardens, we must make the most of it and enjoy the moment because soon it will pass like all things.

The trials and tribulations that a tulip bulb must go throw to get to the point of flowering each spring should be a metaphor for so many of us. It’s easy to forget about the mini miracles that are happening under the ground while we try our best to hibernate over winter. Like a caterpillar’s metamorphosis to turn into a butterfly, the bulb then uses all the energy stored over the year to turn into the most spectacular flower.

Ultimately, like the tulip, we need the cold and dark days of winter; it’s part of life’s process. Like the tulip needs the cold, we sometimes need the dark in order to wake up. This spring don’t just wake up with a mundane groan, embrace the season like the tulip and celebrate in style. . .


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