Further digging after lunch, with assistance from neighbours, saw the removal of the mahonia that was in the way of the asparagus bed and, while the going was good, an unidentified bush that was next to it, and a box bush that was obstructing progress on the new herb garden.
All three went to the neighbour, who couldn't quite belive I wanted to give them away, especially the box bush, which was pretty big. "This could cost £100 in a garden centre, if it was neatly trimmed," she said. Well I hope it was worth £100 to her, because it certainly wasn't to me. In fact, it had negative value because it was in the way!
You may be wondering what all this has to do with bulbs. Well... while we were digging up the box bush, we found a huge number of bulbs that neither of us could identify. We carefully removed them and put them aside to be planted later while we tackled the monster box (there were some very large pieces of slate in the roots - it might as well have been planted in a wall).
By the time we'd finished digging, it was extremely cold and getting dark, so I just put the bulbs in the wheelbarrow and covered them with soil to offer some protection from the frost. The next day I tried to retrieve them, but my attempt at protection turned out to be pitiful - the whole lot was frozen solid. I managed to extract some of them and put them in pots, but luckily the in-laws arrived to rescue me from that task before I got frostbite.
It stayed frozen for several days... and then it rained a lot... and then last night it froze again. This morning found the poor, abused little bulbs encased in ice.
By lunchtime today the sun had melted the ice, so after lunch I resumed the task of rescuing them. Rather than just sticking them in pots, I wanted to put them in a trough (well actually, I want to plant them under the fruit trees, but I haven't even ordered the trees yet). The trouble was, the trough was still full of strawberries. My plan for the strawberries was to put some in the new strawberry planter I got for Christmas and the rest along the edge of the new herb garden. The only trouble there was that the herb garden was full of weeds...
OK, so rescuing the bulbs had to start with weeding the herb garden. That was quite a big job, but once I'd done it, moving the strawberries wasn't difficult - certainly a lot easier than when the ground was frozen! With the strawberry trough finally vacated, I was at last able to fish the bulbs out of the soggy mud in the wheelbarrow. It became quite dangerous, as my fingers got too numb to feel the sharp bits of slate that were also in there (I didn't put them there; all the soil here is full of bits of slate).
Strawberries in new planter and bulbs in trough. They may not look very impressive now, but just wait until spring!
... probably. I don't know if they've survived and I still don't know what they are.