Monthly Archives: December 2020

December 2020: garden diary

It’s been very difficult to get out into our Cambridgeshire garden this month. We’ve suffered high winds, heavy rain, thick cloud cover (which masked the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction virtually every evening), and frost and even light snow towards the end of the month. 

Long spells of rain produced a flood in the field at the back. Our lawns were completely saturated and vegetable beds were reduced to a deep layer of claggy mud, which made the lifting of carrots and parsnips for our Christmas dinner a very unpleasant process!

Temperatures were very low from mid-month and frost often covered the borders, lawns and driveway.

I though I’d given all our roses their autumn pruning – but this specimen seems to have escaped, resulting in the strange sight of frozen rosebuds.

I’ve started work on pruning our buddleia. I’m avoiding taking the cuttings to the council tip because of the pandemic; and so I do it in stages, disposing of the pruned twigs and branches in our green bin which is collected every fortnight. I’ve found over the years in various gardens that it’s essential to keep buddleias under control with annual cutbacks, to prevent them from growing to unmanageable proportions. Severe pruning does spur them into vigorous early growth, however, and the sight of scores of butterflies descending on them and sipping their nectar in summer is a real pleasure to behold.

Another job on my Spring ‘to do’ list will be the pruning of our hydrangea. Hydrangeas are not everyone’s cup of tea but their large blooms do last for many months and they can add a major point of interest in the right position. I think ours works well as a means of rounding off the border.

It’s good to see heather in bloom in mid-winter. Our soil is not particularly acidic, so in a way it’s quite surprising that it can do so well in non-ericaceous earth.

These snowdrops need to be moved. They’re in the middle of a pathway – I’ll wait till they’ve gone over and then re-plant them in a more appropriate (and less dangerous!) position.

I’m continuing to prepare larger flower beds, ready for planting in the Spring. In this case I’ve chopped back the lower branches of this ivy bush to produce a much more substantial area. The only problem is the infestation of ivy growths that I’ve uncovered. But I learned a lot about dealing with that kind of issue when battling my way through the ivy and brambles that covered the area that is now our thriving vegetable plot (see earlier blogs), at the end of the garden.

This bigger bed should be quite a sun trap – I’m looking forward to seeing the end result in the summer.

The black berries of the ivy bush are gobbled up by wood pigeons and blackbirds. They have quite a feast. The only problem, of course, is that eventually they re-distribute some of the seeds to other parts of the garden …

Are petunias winter-hardy? Well, looking at this one, obviously not. But in fact it’s all about location …

… this one, in a comparatively warm, sheltered spot in the corner of the courtyard is doing really well. It’s even been producing flowers, in the middle of winter.

Another sheltered area, this time in the bay tree border, is home to nasturtiums and even still-flowering cosmos, both of which seem to be coming through the winter unscathed. They’ll be moved in the Spring, though, when I get underway with new plantings.

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The Darkling Thrush, Thomas Hardy (1906)

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

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