Waterford, south-east Ireland. 12th December 2020
It is a time of the year when it is very easy to slip into a negative attitude towards the garden. The weather is wet, cold and generally miserable and going to the garden is not always the most attractive option. The arrival of three beautiful gardening books one day during the week certainly weakened my resolve and I opted for the warmth of indoors and some armchair gardening.
The autumn clear-up can drag on into winter when some of the material destined for the compost bin has deteriorated into a soggy mess, wet and cold and hard on the hands which have to deal with it. It can be difficult to face the work. And, this is also that in-between time when the highlights of summer are a distant memory, the glory of autumn is well gone and the promise of spring just doesn’t seem to be quite strong enough to buoy up our spirits. It is the time of the year when I long to see the snowdrops appear in the garden as they give me an ongoing interest through the winter months, a reason to make sure the beds have been well cleared and all ready for the coming year. Thankfully, the snowdrop season is well under way and those which flower reliably before Christmas are already brightening the garden. Check them out here!
The weather is as the weather is at this time of the year – changeable! One day can bring frost, sunshine, rain and fog and we have had to take advantage of a few hours here and there to do a little in the garden. Fog and frost provide opportunities for photographs in the garden, showing the garden in a different way, a different view.
Here we are with a frosty start to the day. We are fortunate that our climate is quite mild and frosts are generally light. Snow is very uncommon and the white of the frost is the nearest we usually get to the traditional winter scene:
Fog is much more common with us, especially so as the garden is very close to the river. It can bring an eerie atmosphere:
Bare ground might not seem particularly appealing but it does bear witness to the completion of the autumn clear-up of beds and borders and provides a clean starting point for emerging spring plants. I’ve put out compost here and there; it’s a case of taking the beds in turns – one bed this year, another the following and elsewhere as needed. I like to use leafmould in areas with lots of snowdrops as I think it suits them better though some areas collect a good depth of leaves naturally – prevailing winds, I suppose.
What does one do on these dull days! Well, of course, it is possible to turn to the fruit collected last week, the medlars which had been brought into the warmth of the house to continue their softening and ripening in preparation for making Medlar Jelly. It is a very simple and very satisfying process: the medlars are covered with water and simmered gently until softened. All is poured into a jelly bag to strain and provide a clear liquid. Sugar is added: 450g per 600ml, dissolved and all brought to the boil and boiled until setting point is reached. The jelly is poured into jars and held, ready for use.
Bergenia ‘Ballawley’ defies the normal progression of autumn into winter as it gives a display which is bright enough and colourful enough to match anything that summer might offer. The cold weather triggers a dramatic and perfectly attractive change in the colour of the leaves and, compared with other bergenias which also colour in autumn/winter, ‘Ballawley’ holds onto this display for much longer.
Finally, for this week, a tree I like very much. It was bred by the late John Buckley, Birdhill, Co. Tipperary, who crossed Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’ with Betula costata – that tan colour of the bark from B. costata comes through very nicely in winter. The bark colour is certainly as interesting as ‘Jacquemontii’ and the foliage most colours far better in autumn. I received this tree from John himself so it is especially dear to me. At this time of year the early morning light catches the trunk and I can enjoy the view from the comfort of the house.
I hope you are all keeping well. These days of Covid19 are trying on us all and it is good to have a garden to occupy us and give us a pastime. Finally, a book recommendation from this week’s reading: The Modern Cottage Garden
I’m sharing this blog with a group of fellow bloggers who contribute to a “Six on Saturday” theme which is hosted by “The Propagator” on his blog site. To read more contributions to the Six on Saturday theme go to The Propagator’s entry for today, scroll down to the comments and you will find other bloggers have posted links to their Saturday entries there. Lots to read!
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