As we edge into the first few weeks of Winter it is hard not to think about the increasing darkness. The days get shorter and shorter as we get close to the Solstice and many seem to be talking about putting the garden to bed. I never know whether at this point to pity my garden that I do not this, it does not get put to bed. My time outside in the garden is mainly limited by the weather and conditions and not by the amount of things I want to do.
The cold is not in itself the major problem, but saturated or frozen ground can severely limit the possibilities for garden-time. Yet as I write this the first frosts have only just commenced. This means that the grass has still been growing and weeds continue to pop up and wave themselves around enthusiastically as if I should be pleased to see them. It has long been remarked upon that weeds lack basic self-awareness of their popularity.
On a practical level less daylight means less available time to get outside. Worst of all though is that if, like me, you work in an office, I actually do not see my garden in daylight hardly at all during the week.
Saturday mornings are like a revelation to check that the garden is still really there and a time to catch up on what has been happening during the last five days. Of course there is also a positive to this, it means that in that week some things will have moved on. The trees will have shed more leaves, the last of the annual flowers will have shrivelled under frost. The signs of change are obvious as the first signs of the bulbs coming up are there, the hellebores are starting to flower and the buds on the Hamamelis are starting to swell with the first tiny shreds of flower spilling out.
Better still this time of year, this specific small period of time, is perfect for the planting out of a whole variety of plants, trees and shrubs. The ground is not yet that cold so roots can get a foothold. The soil is quite moist so watering things in is not going to be constant chore for weeks to come. A tree planted now has far more chance of thriving than one planted in May. Only the other day I was heeling my order of bare-root trees into the vegetable beds in the dark with the aid of the outside light and a torch. I even managed to plant them the right way up. Yes they might look a little unappealing at the moment, they are deciduous so it looks like I have planted some dead sticks. I shall be watching them carefully until Spring when their leaves start to show and then I shall be delighted.
It is also a good time of year for on those colder, less cheery days, to go out wielding a pruning saw and giving your trees a bit of a tidy up. Some tidy ups can be more deep felt than others and the removal of branches brings in some additional light on these light-starved days.
All this means that whilst the long dark nights seem to go on forever, there is always something joyful to find in the garden. Failing that, the more you consider the darkness the more you might start to think of a lycra-clad Justin Hawkins. This may, or may not, please you.
Check out Alison and her garden in all it’s glory…. http://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk