I’ve been off for a bit, from the garden that is.  Don’t suppose I’m the only one either. I mean – ugh – just look at it out there. The cold, grey months of Winter are here, still hanging around like overstaying party guests who can’t take the hint. I’ve tried tapping my watch, breezily declaring “Oh is that the time already?” but apparently you can’t chivvy along the eternal cycle of the seasons by appealing to its sense of social embarrassment.  Bit annoying.

So, from under a blanket, you peer outside. From my particular blanketside location in south Leicestershire, I offer you an endless greyscape of drizzle, sleet and murk. Snowfall so sudden it stoved in the coldframe roof.  No?  Then may I offer you a sludgy brownscape of heavy clay, lashed with punishing winds. Still not taken?  Alright, just close the curtains, pretend it never happened, and have a mince pie and some sloe gin. After all, it is just gone 4 in the afternoon and it’s pitch black so there’s nothing to see anyway.

If you’re one of those people with an incredible memory, you might recall my last blog a few months ago about making sloe gin. This is the end result, bottled up and actually really quite good. Not too sweet, plummy and pleasantly warming, in case you’re wondering.

Anyway, I came across a quote I liked today: ‘All gardening is landscape painting’. Serial gardening and architectural 18th century overachiever William Kent said it.  He’s the one who, amongst many other triumphs, designed Stowe Landscape Garden which isn’t that far from here and is just a little bit jaw dropping.

To contrast, our garden right now is not so much painterly and picturesque, more so The Scream.

The ground is boggy, full on welly-sucking clay.  Plants, bare and brown.  If you’ve ever had one of those paint colour charts from a DIY store, we’re in that muted and little visited section, a world away from the vibrant, partying, good time reds and yellows.  You know the kind, where it’s not called ‘Battleship Grey’, it’s inexplicably something like ‘Stoat’s Whisper’ or ‘Sad Robin’.

Even the gloriously bright berries of the Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ which blazed around Christmas have been pecked clear by the birds (speaking of which, do feed the birds in winter – they will love you for it).

There is one redeeming plant though, happily.  A stubbornly joyous clump of Winter Jasmine by the gate, which in an unusual feat of forwards planning, I’d pushed into the ground a few years ago exactly there where I would see it from the kitchen window during Winter.  It radiates happiness and warmth, and it’s making me look ahead to the Spring.

Be gone, mince pies and murk.  Even you, Sad Robin.

So, let’s plan and dream a bit of Spring.  The garden, even if it doesn’t look like it right now, is actually pretty full of plants.  It’s not dead really, just dormant, preserving life deep in roots ready for a rise in temperature.

Maybe, like me, you’re recently had a bunch of plant and seed catalogues plop through the door (it’s as if the marketing people are on to something, right?). There are some tempting things to be seen online too.

I am going to apply Restraint, Self-Control and a Strict Budget so have set a modest five-item limit.  I’m still clicking around like a kid at a pick and mix counter, and am drawn to the hot colour groups:

Looks like I already have a couple of items already cached in the shopping basket from the last time I was daydreaming about sunshine.  A blackcurrant (‘Big Ben’) and a redcurrant (‘Rovada’).  Hang on though, a free set of strawberry plants with my order you say?  Hmmn.  Could be tempted. 

  • Is your garden looking better than mine? Share your tips and stories here, we’d love to hear all about them.
  • Or maybe you’ve just come across a silly name for the colour of a tin of paint and want to share with the group. I know, we came for the gardening but let’s stay for the laughs. Go on, let’s hear it…
Alison Hooper

I’ve lived in various places from freezing flats in Manchester with just enough room to swing a pot rubber plant, to a Leicester semi which must have held some kind of local record for most concrete used in the garden. That took some digging out.

Now living in Market Harborough with husband Matt and two young daughters. And a cat who shows up for mealtimes.

Gardening neophyte, learning always.

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