A Gardener’s Diary – 31st Jan

A gardener’s diary can be started on any day. The garden evolves throughout the year and any day would be a good starting point.

The last day of January works for me given a break in the cold, frosty weather. The sun is shining though the ground remains cold and hard.

Dare I suggest that if you have not been out in your garden since Christmas, maybe even before, then you are way overdue getting out there. In truth, that applies to me, ashamedly. Lockdown rules and family illness have I’m sorry to say, destroyed my motivation and drive to care for this magical space outside our door.

That is until now. In the last few days I have been out there, just for short amounts of time, but time that is reigniting my passion for gardening. Raking up leaves. Yes, for those who think the fallen leaves should have been cleared already, Oak trees infuriatingly hold their leaves well into winter and in our garden, kept falling through December and January.

I have been cutting back perennials that I had just left, hoping rather than planning that they would offer picturesque structure during the winter snows and frost. Sadly as our local climate is very wet, my hope was ill-founded as they lie in a wet soggy mess causing more damage to growing bulbs. I have concluded that The winter garden looks better in some areas and not others, in our case, I will be cutting back perennials and deciduous shrubs in autumn, having a tidy garden before winter and allowing me a more casual approach to next years spring garden. Even the natural homes for insects to overwinter is less of an issue for us in a semi-rural area as there are many opportunities for hideouts in the garden even with the cut back and tidy up.

Early spring flowering plants joining their winter flowering friends. They are, as often called, harbingers of spring and boy, do we need all signs of hope right now. It takes some resilience to go outdoors each day, even for a short time and frankly, I find I’m more often than not, alone in my endeavours. Family staying indoors in the warm, even our Parson Terrier is happier looking at me through the window from the warmth of indoors. No activity in neighbouring gardens either, but I carry on, little by little, I have significant restoration to do. If you decide to venture out, remember to wrap up warm, a woollen hat, multiple layers and long enough shirts to keep covered any exposed ‘flesh’ as you bend and stretch.

Even though the weather remains cold, I do prepare to plant out bare rooted trees and shrubs and this year I have a number of English Yew for a new hedge – creating a feature to house our statue of the Goddess ‘Flora’. Flora is the Roman goddess of flowers and of the season of spring. I like how formal gardening creates spaces in hedgerows to house sculptures set within them and I am trying to create something similar.

Of course when you go back into the garden, I can guarantee, like me, you will not know where you have left your tools. I blame the lack of motivation during the height of the lockdown for not putting ours away correctly and ensuring they were cleaned and sharpened. As each one is recovered, they need cleaning up, or permanently retiring.

On this day, we have Dwarf Iris showing, Snowdrops just about to open, and Japanese Flowering Quince with flower buds looking like opening even before our Camelia. Cyclamen Coum are fighting against the fallen leaves to show through with their stunning variegated leaves. The white winter flowering Sarcococca Confusa, Lonicera Fragrantissima and Helleborus Niger are beginning to fade, but have been so welcome through the last few weeks and the scent in the air has been wonderful. The delight is how many spring bulbs are forcing them selves through the ground, a certain sign of good things to come.

I don’t do new year resolutions as I tend to fail on them very quickly but I have a few projects I am eager to fulfil. Two I will keeps to myself and see how they develop through the year, but those I will share with some confidence this early is my plan to add a Polytunnel to the garden. I have been wanting one, or a greenhouse, for some time and have decided on a polytunnel. As well as home grown veggies, I want to bring on seasonal hanging baskets in this area so I can swap out spring for summer, summer for autumn, autumn for winter and then spring again with plants that have been established in the care of a managed area, the same with pots.

Creating a courtyard with cobbles and gravel, leading to an entrance to a real secret garden has been planned for the ten years we have lived here. Time I did something about it!

January 31st has also been dedicated to the catalogues pricing up and choosing the materials needed. I hope future posts will reveal our successes and importantly how they have (hopefully) benefitted our family.

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