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Working through the winter blues

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

The days start to cool and it is the trees turn to shine as they showcase their range of brilliant colours before fading and settling into their dormant state. In my garden, and in the green spaces in the town where I live, a few brave flowers still cling hopefully on, showcasing the last of their colour and flare in the fading Autumn sunshine. Try as they might to keep the essence of summer going, I am increasingly confronted by dew damp grass and shapely seed heads, by wilting courgette leaves, yellowing raspberry canes and the fluttering of falling leaves.

Autumn leaves at Westonbirt Arboretum

At this time of year the tendency can be to 'tidy' the garden away. To clear up the leaves, cut back faded foliage and shut the door on it all until the first of the spring bulbs start to push through the ground. But there is always something to be done in the garden no matter what time of year. There are fruit trees to prune, garlic and other ornamental bulbs to plants, perennials to lift and divide and, most importantly, planning to be done for the next phase of the year, which will bear down upon us with the coming of the winter solstice.

I often find that, egged on by the hint of new growth, there is a mad panic to get the garden looking good after shutting it away and ignoring it over the winter months. With the onset of Spring comes an eagerness to plan and plant and a rush to get the garden in shape for summer and the warmer weather. As a garden designer and a gardener, I don't shut my garden up for the winter but work through the colder months instead to avoid the sudden rush that seizes upon so many of us in the Spring.

I think of Aesop's fable, 'The Ant and the Grasshopper'. I am like the ants that spent the summertime planning and storing food away in preparation for the cold winter months, while the grasshopper frolicked and made music in the sunshine. My time for working, however, is in the wintertime. I plan and prepare and plant in readiness for the spring. So that, when the first of the snowdrops push through the earth and the daffodils emerge to cheerily line our streets, I can sit back and enjoy it all, knowing that I've planned and planted and can expect great things.

This doesn't then allow me to sit back and not do anything for the rest of year. I still have a garden to maintain. I simply spread the work out throughout the year, always keeping one step ahead and working with nature to allow her to take care of the things that are beyond my control.

For me, winter is not a time to creep indoors, but a time to shrug into big warm coats, scarfs and lined gardening gloves, to breathe in crisp, cold, outdoor air and do what I can to prepare the garden for the coming year.

On the odd occasion that the rain or snow does manage to send me inside, I plan and research and imagine how the garden will develop and take shape over the coming year.

Planting plan - first draft

So my advice to anyone who has that little bit of green space that they dream of utilising in the summer months is: don't shut your garden away, continue with your weekly garden tasks, get planning now and don't let the cold weather stop you. Create a wish list. Think about your space, about what you want to use it for, and plan. If you aren't sure about how to plan, about what to plant or what to do, then get in touch with a garden designer who will be able to guide you through the process.

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