We are in the first month of winter and the worst of its discomforts and worries are yet to come. But, winter has many saving graces – perhaps the best being that the garden needs little attention as most plants are dormant: the grass stops growing, so no mowing; weeds stall and become inactive, so no weeding; and the last of the leaves are off the trees and shrubs and safe in the compost heap (I hope).
At this time of year, the garden’s abiding strengths are the evergreens, certain flower heads (hydrangea, sedum and cardoon, for example) and the ornamental grasses. So, not being too tidy and not deadheading and cutting back too promptly can leave your garden attractive for the winter and allow it to provide food and shelter for wildlife. The bushy, golden seed-heads of grasses, the white pom-poms of (left alone) asters, glisten against the evergreens and ever-goldens and ever-silver leaved shrubs.
If you are hankering after some activity in the garden and want to keep warm and fit, deep-digging the vegetable garden or digging out and spreading the compost heap will guarantee a pleasurable workout. If you are lucky, the pleasure is increased by the appearance of hungry red-breasted robins snatching worms and grubs to devour. The joy in companionship is immeasurable.
But once the light fades, and the muscles ache and the rain sets in, you can have ample time indoors for dreaming, planning and making gardening wishing lists.
Garden-visiting is a peculiarly British occupation and now that we all have phones with cameras there is scope for saving plant names, ideas or recording pleasing plant combinations. Maybe now is the time to look again at your photos and remember the seeds, plants and shrubs that you so admired in summer. It is also a perfect time to drool over seed and plant catalogues and websites and to order! And then there is the eternal problem (like the child whose eyes are bigger than their tummy) of the gardener’s wishing list and shopping basket always being bigger than their greenhouse and plot. I confess to being a serial offender
Happy garden-dreaming, Giles Derry
Dates for your diary
Tuesday 14 January 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Last January our talk was about keeping hens in your garden, this year ... Jan Doyle (from Newbury Beekeepers) will talk to us about the joys and challenges of amateur beekeeping. If you are interested in keeping bees or learning more about the life, lifecycle and garden benefits of these pollinators, do join us.
Tuesday 11 February 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Marcus Dancer is returning to tell us about Trees and shrubs for winter interest. We all know challenge of keeping the garden colourful and interesting at this time of year. Join us for ideas and inspiration by the bucketful.