Winter Gardening

We gardeners really so often live in a trance of self-delusion with green-tinted rather than rose-tinted glasses, I suppose! The last book I read and reviewed (below) was a celebration of the beauty that may be found in the garden in winter with colourful bark on trees and shrubs featuring vibrantly. It painted a delightful and beautiful picture of the off-season, a picture which would generally be against the odds except on the occasional pet day we may be so fortunate to experience in these dark days of winter.  I am equally guilty of this selective view of the garden, allowing myself to be distracted from reality by my interest in snowdrops over the winter months.

These last few days have, perhaps, brought us back to the realities of winter gardening. Even now, with a thaw on us for the past 36 hours, there is still a 20cm depth of snow on the garden and our road is as yet impassable. Despite the inconvenience not a great deal of damage has been done. An Irish yew appeared to be under threat from the weight of the snow but, as I cleared it several times, no limbs were broken though I fear it will not recover its previously tidy habit and I foresee a need to reduce its height and wire it, a plant corset of kinds I suppose, to bring it back into shape. A colletia, hardly a thing of beauty at the best of times, but it came to us as a gift; was planted with appreciation and had reached about four metres in height before being reduced to a little over a metre when it snapped under the weight of the snow. I will cut off the broken branches and I’m sure it will resprout – reminding me of an old lady’s comment that she always called colletia the “Resurrection Tree”, for “anybody who fell into it was sure to rise again!” Otherwise, there has been some squishing and squashing of plants under the snow but nothing of consequence and they will recover.

Yes, despite optimism, these have been rather miserable days. The snowdrop season was in full swing but was brought to an abrupt conclusion and the earlier daffodil cultivars have also been given a knock-back. The blossom on the early flowering magnolias, so beautiful last week against a blue sky, have now been reduced to a brown  mush and are lying on the ground. Yes, the garden in winter is regularly a disappointment and a mess.  Yet, when we go to the garden with our cameras – and the innumerable photographs on social media prove this – we seek out the pretty and the picturesque; we view the garden with blinkered eyes and continue with our unreasonable and unbalanced view of the winter garden and isn’t it well that we do!

One “benefit” of the bad weather was to see so many birds come to the garden for food. We had a huge flock of chaffinches with big numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings and even a few snipe – these last three are common on the farmland around us but are very rarely in the garden .

We are gardeners and we look forward to the first daffodils, the first primroses, the first magnolias, the coming of the roses and the paeonias and the garden in full green and in full bloom. By nature and our interests we look for these positive aspects of our pastime and regularly gloss over what is less pleasant.



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