are we gardeners doing or thinking about in winter?
To an extent, we are worrying about the present, though
it might be wiser to dig those drains when the ground
has dried out a bit.
If you have to be out there, make sure you are as comfortable
as is possible in the circumstances. Put on plenty of
layers of clothing; make yourself watertight; have several
changes of dry gloves. If you must plant, be light in
your touch and don't compress the soil. Above all, don't
tread on and compact it, making it lose structure and
Planning for the next year is, one might say, a good
excuse for being inside and warm. You can get inspiration
from browsing through catalogues and well illustrated
gardening books. But to confine your planning to the
winter is sheer escapism; it should be a part of the
whole year's thinking.
Indeed, you can usually
get a far clearer picture in summer, when it's all actively
in front of you, of what changes and improvements are
desirable. That's where the vital garden notebook comes
in, capturing the brilliant thought that has come into
your head and setting it down forthwith, before it is
lost. The notebook should be small enough to be carried
around or slipped into a pocket and it should have waterproof
Always keep yourself on the rails by noting the date
of any entry. It doesn't matter how grubby and battered
the book becomes. Read over what you have written within
the next day and when you've come indoors. That way
you can be sure to read your own writing and also to
fix the place and occasion in your mind (it may be in
your own garden or it may be in someone else's).
Many improvements are just a question of minor adjustments,
rather than out-and-out planning. In fact, I'm not keen
on plans, as the site always looks different once you're
on it. In a few weeks, you'll be enjoying the appearance
of one of the earliest daffodils, the little yellow
It is so small that there are many spots where it can
simply be left to get on with its life, whether active
and will not be in the way.
Under a deciduous
for instance. Look around you and think where else it
might be nice to see some of it. Stock soon increases,
so it won't be long before you have enough to spread
around. Then think, what would it be nice to see with
this little fellow that would make a good companion
at the same time?
My own answer, here, is primroses - the unimproved wild
primrose. You don't have to (must not, in fact) dig
it up from the wild. A plant is easily bought or grown
from seed and will soon be large enough to be divided.
The primrose is pale yellow; the narcissus, deep yellow
and they are well contrasted in shape.
Anyone else to join the party? Well, what about some
bulbs of the little Iris
reticulata? Purple is wonderfully highlighted by
yellow and again we have a different shape but a flowering
season that coincides. And this iris can easily multiply
if left undisturbed in the garden, as it never would
were you growing it in a pot. To own whole clumps of
it, thick with blossom, will be a source of great pride.
For a site, I am
still invoking the protection of some deciduous shrub
- it might be a weigela or a deutzia - which is itself
doing nothing at this season, so that there is plenty
of light beneath it.
Another good spot is around some hardy
which takes up a lot of space in summer but retires
to virtually nothing in winter. A number of hardy cranesbills
come to mind. Geranium
'Ann Folkard' would be ideal. There is always a
great deal of space around a single plant of this, in
winter, and that space will remain vacant until well
into May, by which time the bulbs will naturally be
dying down and the primrose can put up with any amount
of summer shade anyway.
You should surely be growing more snowdrops and there's
currently so much ground doing nothing where they'd
be happy. For an accompaniment I always think that the
marbled foliage of hardy Cyclamen
hederifolium looks ideal as a background to them.
All this is just a start to the year but can go on in
every week through the seasons. Plan now on paper for
the summer by all means, and make lists of the plants
you yearn to have, but be prepared for some major rethinking
when that time actually comes along.
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com