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.

Welcoming Autumn

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Meteorologically with the advent of September we have moved from summer into autumn.   I have noticed a few bloggers bemoaning the passing of summer but for me I am beginning to feel a sense of excitement at the prospect of the new season.  Autumn and spring are my favourite seasons.  They are seasons of change, of the passing from new to old and vice versa and suit my fidgety nature.  I find winter and summer both increasingly boring and tedious, hating the extreme of weather  and how limiting the cold and heat can be.

Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium

Even though the meteorological definition of autumn – September, October and November, is a paper exercise you can already sense the changes in the  garden.  It just smells different but one sure sign that autumn is coming is the flowering of the Cyclamen hederifolium  which will flower now until early spring.

Changing leaves of the Prunus
Changing leaves of the Prunus

I wonder what the impact of the dry season we have had will be on the autumn displays of changing leaves.  Last year, after a very  wet summer, the displays were especially good.  I suspect that they will be over quicker this year and I have already noticed the large prunus in my garden leaves changing to a buttery yellow, earlier I am sure than other years.  In fact it is normally the witch hazel that colours up first and that is only just turning.  There are berries on the Sorbus and so far the blackbirds have resisted making an early start on this crop.

Changing leaves of Hamamelis mollis 'Arnold Promise'
Changing leaves of Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’

Unlike many I don’t see autumn as the end of the gardening year but as the start of the gardening year.  I have placed bulb orders and expect parcels to start arriving shortly.   The greenhouse is being tided ready for the succulents to be moved into their winter home.  Plans formulated over the summer whilst considering the borders will be put into action and the sense of frustration of having to wait will hopefully pass.  I plant a lot in autumn as I believe it gives many plants a good start ready for spring but I only plant out plants that are substantial so they have a chance, any one year old perennial seedlings will be kept undercover to be repotted during the winter and then planted out  in the spring.

For me there is now a buzz in the air and a new sense of purpose.