Saturday, 31 December 2011


So we’ve had the shortest day, Christmas and now New Year, that normally means we’re about half way through Wintery days and looking forward to the coming spring. I’m still waiting for the garden to find this out; currently it’s a mishmash of being Autumnally Spring out there with warmish damp days and plenty of plant growth.

Here in Cardiff we’re still waiting for a frost and along with the Snowdrops coming out I’ve also seen Crocus and Daffodils up while having the Pelagoniums from last spring in flower. Normally at this time of year gardeners retire to enjoy the lull in good weather and plant activity, it’s time to keep warm, drink tea and potter through the list of maintenance jobs with the occasion guilty delve into seed and plant catalogues.

Winter is a chance for nature to reset as well. Cold helps clean the garden of pests and diseases, aphid production and weed growth plus after a good frost or snowfall the garden takes on a magical quality. It’s not just the glistening of morning light on dew crystals it’s also the chance to stand back and admire the view without cause of too much distraction. The rest of the year it can be hard to sit still when you’re surrounding by lots of small quick jobs which ultimately take much longer and drag you back into the swing of things. Whereas a garden frozen under frost seems caught in the moment, you can stand and feel as though just for a second nature has paused allowing you time to relax. Plus you can’t do much with everything covered in frost, especially no walking on lawns putting a lot of the garden out of bounds and allowing a guilt free gardener.

Having said that, as gardening is also my job I am out and about through the winter (when I’m not snowed in), which brings me back to the current climate of damp, warm days and confused gardens/gardeners. In thirteen years of gardening I’ve never known such a mild winter with no idea whether it will simply blend into spring or be a sudden cold snap pulling us up sharp.
It is of course still great to be out, especially now the days are lengthening and the promise of sun is within tasting distance whatever we have to go through to get there.

If you fancy getting out there too I can heartily recommend it, there’s a great therapy to be had in getting your hands mucky and sprucing up the garden, even at this time of year there’s always something to be done and it’s easy for the garden to fall into a neglected state. Reconnect with your soil, give some love to the plants and you’ll appreciate it in the spring when growth starts its yearly race skyward.
Watch out for bulbs coming up as they may well be hidden under leaves and tidy back the debris from around plants and off the grass. A lot of garden advice at the moment points to leaving shelter such as leaves and dead seed heads for overwintering wildlife, this is good up to a point but everything has its balance and leaving all the years discarded growth can lead to an unhealthy garden. Pest and diseases are able to overwinter too and young shoots may well be smothered or rot off if under too thick a layer. I recommend tidying back borders at least along the edges and keeping the lawn clear and in the current weather drained too, the up side to these mild days is that most wildlife if disturbed will be able to find a new home without being too cold.

Oh and don’t forget to make yourself a cuppa and stand for a while, it might not be a frozen moment but it’s a joy anyway.