Updated: Dec 7, 2021
Late November we had our first touch of frost down here in Devon and I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to come. The seasons have changed and whilst this is only my third winter in this garden, already I've noticed subtle changes. Jobs that I would have been doing this time last year are simply not ready to be done. Our apple trees and clematis are still holding onto their foliage and our sweet peas simply won't stop flowering. It's going to take some adapting too but it's important as gardeners that we don't just do what we've always done and we show a little patience and restraint and allow our gardens to slowly evolve through the seasons - I'm sure they will thank us for it.
That being said the thought of not gardening until spring is a frightening concept for me (I'm only just holding off sowing my chillies - but not for long). Now is such a wonderfully slow relaxed time to take stock of the successes and failures from the previous growing season and focus on what's to come. I'm a planner and I do love to start putting down on paper my thoughts and aspirations, not just for next year but how the garden can also be productive right up until spring. Of course right now it's all about the bulbs and I have a pile of them still to get in the ground and I haven't even begun to order my tulips yet!
But it shouldn't stop just at bulbs, use this dormant period to really get to understand the bare bones of your garden. Now is the best time to really look at the structure of your space and start planning some developments. Maybe you want to introduce some new added features or highlights in the garden such as a comfortable seating area for relaxing or entertaining. Perhaps a pond to help encourage more wildlife into your garden or a simple water feature that you can enjoy. Could it be time for a greenhouse? How can you improve your storage? Do you need to reassess your paths, or perhaps you are planning a larger landscaping project, whatever the big grand plan or small planting scheme you have in mind, don't forget to step out into the garden and enjoy what it is right now.
Gardening doesn't have to be physically doing something, just enjoying the flurry of migrant birds making home in your garden for the winter is still gardening in my opinion. And I have to admit I include maintenance of bird feeders, bird baths, hedgehog homes, bug hotels and ponds as part of my gardening routine as they are just as important as the produce and flowers that we grow, more so since I rely on them to pollinate my garden.
And if it really is too cold to be in your garden, then bring some of that garden indoors. The ancient pagan tradition of gathering holly branches into the home is a wonderful way to fill your home with evergreens, this of course has been expanded to now include the conifer tree (what we now refer to as our Christmas trees) originally a Norway spruce and mistletoe. And if you really want to go all out, try planting some hyacinth bulbs, miniature narcissus or even a poinsettia. I can't help but fill my house with pinecones at this time of year, but that's just my preference. So yes, start your planning and your sowing but also take time to enjoy all that this month has to offer.
December 21st marks the winter solstice and with that comes the slow return of the light as the northern hemisphere slowly tilts back towards the sun and spring is just around the corner.