Winter

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Winter has never been a favourite season for me or even a mildly welcomed one. It is the bottom of the pile. I have found it too still, too grey and obviously too cold. My preference has always been for spring and autumn. Both seasons of significant change, generally fine weather and less overwhelming than the blowsy bountiful, bright summer.

However I am slowly beginning to appreciate winter more. Despite a loathing of snow and it’s inconveniences I find the way it blanks out all the details liberating. Every thing seems new, fresh to the eye. The skeleton trees come into their own, sinister and dark against the leaden skies. In contrast the bright pristine snow glistens and softens everything into velvety undulations.

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Sometimes we have a hoar frost and we enter the mystical and magical world of Narnia. As with the snow there is a silence which conversely can be deafening. No birds sing or flit through branches, nothing stirs. I particularly enjoy the melting of the ice and snow when a soft chime of dripping water rings out and there is anticipation that winter will soon pass and life in the garden will start afresh.

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So far this year we have been spared the ‘joys’ of snow and ice; a welcome respite from my perspective. It has been relatively mild although almost overwhelming wet. The Malvern Hills are known for their springs and the crystal clear water they produce. Consequently living on the side of these hills we are at the mercy of the springs and excess of water appearing seemingly wherever. The garden has developed a new sound of water seeping through the ground – it feels very earthy.

Although there hasn’t been a whiting out of the details as in recent years I am still finding winter an interesting season. The slowness of the season means that there is time to think and consider, to reflect, to plan. The perennials are no longer dominant, their showy flowers have disappeared and even the seed heads have gone having been flattened by the wind and rain. The garden is now waiting. The borders have been weeded and mulched, shrubs pruned. The mild winter has allowed the luxury of reviewing borders, removing and rejigging planting and creating new empty spaces waiting for inspiration to strike.

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Winter is no longer a period of inertia and frustration. I am appreciating it as a breathing space, a time for me to rest, clear my over horticulturally obsessed mind and to refocus. It’s a time for the garden to show me what it needs in the coming year. Come spring we will be ready.

After the snow

We have been living in a seemingly permanent mist for the last two days ever since the temperatures rose and the snow started to melt.  I am presuming that this is because there is so much water vapour from the thawing snow.  I am getting desperate for the sun to break through or just to see the sky.

Today was the first day since early December when the garden hasn’t been frozen or covered in snow and it was quite startling this morning to open the curtains and see green.  It really made me see the garden with fresh eyes which was good as I have been reading lots of garden magazines the  last couple of weeks to offset my itch to garden.  I have been dreaming of Nepeta and Euphorbia plants edging borders in my sleep!

It is interesting to see how different plants have responded to the prolonged cold.  The Fatsia (above) which looked like a wrung out dishcloth only yesterday has already perked up although some of the leaves look a little damaged but time will tell. The grasses also seem quite resilient and look lovely in the mist.  There is already lots of new growth ready for next year which looks fresh and green and has cheered me up. Maybe if our winters are going to be more like this grasses will come into their own even more.

However, the Japanese Holly Fern is looking quite sad  for itself. The poor plant had only had a few days when it had managed to perk up before more cold hit it. Luckily whilst the stems have snapped there are new fronds pecking through the earth so next year it should  look fabulous.

What really interested me were leaves like the Acanthus leaves which look more like jelly in places and will obviously never recover.  There are quite a few plants like this, including some shrubs, where it appears that the leaves hadn’t had the chance to die properly before the cold hit.  The smaller leaves have frozen and dried out whilst the bigger fleshy leaves  are just mush.  I can’t say I’m that keen to clear this up but I suppose it will have to be  done soon.

Hopefully, we won’t have too much cold but with the snow on the East coast of the US there are some here who think it will only be a matter of time before it hits the UK!! I am desperate to get into the garden and down the allotment to do something positive and use up some energy. However, if we do have more ice and snow I will just have to approach it with a view to seeing how plants respond and what I can learn!!

That was a week not to repeat

This has been one of those weeks when you are glad to reach the end of it and hope that the next week will be better.

Unlike the majority of the UK here in Worcestershire we seem to have got away with only a small amount of snow, as you can see above, which is something to be grateful for after the weeks of snow we had at the beginning of the year.  However like everyone else we have had very low temperatures and therefore the real problem has been icy driving conditions.  I had a horrid journey home on Wednesday which was simply because we had a fall of icy sleety stuff (it wasnt snow, it wasnt sleet – somewhere in between) and the gritting lorries hadn’t managed to get round all the roads.  I left work early got half way home quite happily turned into a major road and everything ground to a halt because the road was so icy and everyone was having to crawl.  This was Ok until I was nearer home when I started to slide around all over the place and driving an automatic car is not a good thing in this situation.  I managed to get the car over a small humped bridge and slide into our  estate at which point I gave up, abandoned the car and walked the rest of the way.  I was shaking for about an hour afterwards it was so scary.  Luckily about 2 hours later the roads had been gritted and I could retrieve the car which was fine.

Apart from the weather causing chaos this week has been one of sad news.  Thankfully none affects me personally but they do affect people  I work closely with.  On Monday we heard of 2 deaths, and another one today.  Also a close work colleague has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and given 2 years if the cancer responds to chemo – so Monday was a horrid day. I then became completely neurotic as my youngest (18 year old) was complaining of headaches and a stiff neck.  Having lost my sister to meningitis last year I am just a tad neurotic on the subject so ended up phoning the doctor who was fabulous and even came out just to double-check on him – he had a virus and is fine thankfully.

With so much bad news around I start desperately looking for something jolly and happy to cling to.  Luckily, good news was hot on the heels of bad news and I was offered a second paid blog by Yell.com. I write a weekly post for them on gardening generally but with a focus on flowers.  After a conversation with my contact there they asked me if I would be interested in writing a second post a week but on my experiences as a novice veg and fruit grower.  I jumped at the chance but am secretly panicking!  I don’t start the second post until January so plenty of time to plan posts. Not only will this be a welcome challenge, I thrive on challenges, but the little bit of extra money will come in useful.

Another thing that has made me smile is very small and to be honest quite insignificant.  Some time ago I read on a blog on Blotanical that someone took Gaura cuttings by rooting them in water.  This sounded very easy and I wondered if I could do the same so I took some small cuttings from my Gaura and popped them in a small bottle of water on the kitchen windowsill.  A couple just died but one has a fantastic root system now and the other two are showing signs of roots breaking any day.  This isn’t really an achievement as it didn’t involve much effort on my part but I do get a buzz out of propagating plants.

Another highlight this week was seeing a fox trotting down our road.  I know many people see foxes regularly, particularly in the cities but we don’t often see them here.  I suspect he was looking for food and you can see where he was wondering around my front garden if you look at the second pic above.  Watching him made me forget my worries, albeit for only 5 minutes, but it was like taking a deep breath before carrying on. I also saw two Goldfinches in the garden for the first time in over a year which was a real treat.  I do find nature so uplifting.

So all in all not a great week  but I have always been a glass half full person so I try to see the best in things and the small triumphs more than make up for my horrid journey and worry about my son and take the edge of the sadness which is prevalent at work at the moment.