I’m just not feeling the love! Apart from sloping off to the greenhouse every few days to check on the cuttings (progress not great.) I’ve done nothing NOTHING, I TELL YOU! Oh the guilt! I’ve come up with every excuse: it’s too wet, too cold, too early, too late. Apart from one manic flurry of activity on 23 December, that’s it! Talking of which, having overstuffed our green bin within two hours of the last refuse collection for six weeks, it has now started to compost itself and has reduced in volume by a quarter!
Now, it’s not that the garden can’t wait – it’s hanging in a sort of suspended animation – it just feels odd not to have deadlines (self-imposed I grant you) to meet. Apart from the miscanthus, oh yes and the slimy brown kniphofia ribbons, which really could do with the chop now, the entire landscape is looking bedraggled and somehow in this dim January half-light, saps one’s enthusiasm. Due to lack of will, I never got round to pruning back the cannas on the patio and now I’m thinking I might as well leave them on as protection against inevitable cold snaps; if I cut them down all I’d end up doing is covering them with fleece anyway.
On a more positive note, I have managed to find the energy to fill up the numerous bird feeders regularly. Fussy eaters all, we have had to shop around for a particular seed mix and give away our existing supply to my mother (for her birds, not her, silly!) Mind you, seeing as she only lives 500 yards down the road, the very same birds may well chance upon this alternative food supply, only to turn their beaks up again. I have been desperate to spend some gift vouchers on a squirrel proof caged suet block feeder. Do you think I can find one? Out of stock everywhere. Still, as a consolation I treated myself to some more spring bulbs: Our local garden centre has been selling off five packets for £1 so I bought chionodoxa, puschkinia and erythronium. All I’ve got to do now is plant them. Highlight of the New Year was the arrival of T&M NEW Spring catalogues. True to form I have placed my order for all plugs orange. Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls Orange Delight’, begonia elata ‘Solenia Apricot’, begonia Non-Stop Mocca Bright Orange and petunia ‘Sweetunia Suzie Storm’. (Not to mention last year’s overwintering begonias, already showing one or two pips…..) And it’s not all gloom and doom outside. I’m quite into nandinas right now. In addition to our nandina domestica, which is covered in shiny red berries, I’ve acquired nandina domestica ‘Twilight’, part of a new range of dwarf Heavenly Bamboos ideal for containers. Talking of containers, the red cyclamen & cornus against the black grass strikes a cheerful chord amongst the brown landscape, and the papery flowers of hydrangea Zorro held on top of its black stems looks rather arty.
So to while away the long boring hours indoors (lovely actually, all snuggled up on the sofa with various felines, binge watching USA plastic surgery Before and After documentaries) I’ve been cataloguing all my press cuttings (ooh, get her!) into a folder. The cupboard was so crammed with dozens of back edition publications that I was afraid wood worm would move in and eat them. What a trip down Memory Lane that has been. The first edition of Garden News to feature its readers’ 4 Corners Gardening column was published on 26 January 2005 and we have been contributing on a monthly basis ever since. Never mind the changing landscape, the range of hairstyles is breath-taking! And back then David even had hair! Happy 13th anniversary to us. I reckon we must have outlasted most of the editorial team in that time. Amazing to see how the garden has developed from Central Lawn surrounded by Narrow Borders to No Lawn overwhelmed by Plants Everywhere.
Clearly Nature isn’t suffering from lack of encouragement from me right now. Spurred on by writing this blog, I’ve just ventured outside to take some photos and have come back in with very mixed feelings.
- Optimism: Hellebore hybrids are emerging, Lords and Ladies foliage marbling shady places, iris reticulata, snowdrops, narcissi all popping up.
- Trepidation: Buds swelling on deciduous shrubs too soon already. More guilt: hardy geraniums and various withered perennials need cutting back. Relief: some of the cuttings are still alive.
- Admiration: overwintering cannas and salvias are sending up new shoots.
- Challenged: good grief, the hardy fuchsia, sambucus and cotinus are going to need some serious reduction. Amazement: Mad Melianthus Major has Four Fat Flower spikes on it.
- Anticipation: my beloved roses are begging for their winter pruning; can’t wait to set my newly serviced secateurs upon them next month. Too long, too long!
So at last I can feel the sap rising. Any day now you will find me outside bonding with my garden again. A Happy New Gardening Year to you all.
Caroline Broome has been gardening for more than 20 years. Having passed the RHS General Certificate, she has since developed her East Finchley garden into a “personal paradise” that she and her husband invite the public to visit each year via the National Garden Scheme. Learn more about our contributor using T&M’s ‘Meet the experts’ page.