December – The end of the year

I think time has become a completely elastic medium in that in one sense it seems ages since we opened again back in April and yet I cannot quite fathom how it is now December and I am looking at Christmas and the end of the year.

The garden is now wearing its winter frock. Its winter wardrobe is full of tasteful shades of grey and silver, burgundy and claret and selection of rich browns and bronzes. Actually wouldn’t mind a wardrobe of those colours myself!

There are certain times of the year when I find myself thinking in poetry. A long-ago first acquaintance with TS Eliot has always made me think that ‘April is the cruellest month’.

But I think that Shelley catches this time of year best in the first few lines of Ode to the West Wind.

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

The idea of leaves driven along like ghosts whilst the seeds lie cold and low until awakened by spring sends a shiver down my spine, not normally felt unless I’m reading a particularly spooky ghost story. And as Christmas is the perfect time to read a good Victorian ghost story or two, I will definitely be curling up with a good anthology.

But I digress. The volunteers work of winter is done. The asters are out of Alison’s Garden and replanted mostly in the Hot Border. The penstemons have left the Cutting Border and are settling into their new homes in the Long Border. The dahlias are in the polytunnel, slumbering their way through till May when we’ll be planting them out again.

We always finish the year with a burst of seed buying. Mostly for the Kitchen Garden but also some annuals for various parts of the garden. The Hot Border would not be completely without the rich orange of my beloved Tithonia rotundiflora (Mexican sunflower) and the Foliage Border would be incomplete without the different varieties of Nicotiana and Moluccella laevis (Bells of Ireland or Town Hall Clock) to enhance all the other subtle shades of green and draw our attention more to leaf shape and pattern.

If you had the somewhat unlikely, wish to be a fly on the wall in our office you would find Heather, Robyn and June hunched over seed catalogues and drawing up wish lists of things to grow next year. Followed by a ruthless whitling down of the list, whilst each simultaneously makes the case for their choices to make the final cut. It all gets very competitive.

All that remains for now is for me to wish you a happy solstice (the best excuse I know of to open a bottle of something with bubbles to toast the turn of the year). I also wish everyone a peaceful, happy and relaxing time over Christmas. May 2022 bring us all health and happiness.

I will leave it to Shelley to have the last word on the season, again from Ode to the West Wind: it seems particularly apt for a garden:

O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

The seasons will turn and I will see you all again in 2022.

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