Embracing the SeasonsAlison Marsden
Open most magazines in January and various articles will be titled “New Year, New You, House, Wardrobe, Job etc.” and I mulled this over for my January gardening column. But the reality of gardening is that January is not really the start of a new year; autumn and spring probably have more of a claim to that. And I feel that gardening is a continuous cycle of growth and renewal, ebbing and flowing throughout the year, measured by the natural seasons and not by man-made months. So this January I am encouraging you to embrace the changing seasons in your garden.
It can be tempting to stuff your borders with evergreens to avoid the ‘bare and dead’ look in winter and early spring. And I always suggest a few evergreens to keep the structure of the garden alive all year round. But evergreens have a downside too if overused and we risk losing any sense of seasonality if too much of the garden is simply the same in winter as in summer, spring and autumn,
I know that winter round here can be disappointing, more often raw and damp than sparklingly cold and sunny but it is an important time for plants to rest and there can still be plenty to see in the garden. The photograph shows not leaves but Lichen growing on the branches of a deciduous tree taking advantage of the extra sunlight that reaches them without leaves to create shade. Winter also highlights the shape and texture of trees and shrubs from the delicate tracery of an Acer to the open, upright vase shape of Hibiscus or the bright red of Dogwood. Ornamental grasses and cottage garden perennials are now left standing until February to provide seeds for birds and shelter for overwintering insects. They become almost a sepia photograph version of the border in summer, the overall effect lighter and less dense.
The attractions of winter may be more subtle but experiencing each season is a key way of reminding ourselves that we are part of the natural world: people too naturally reduce activity and seek shelter and warmth in winter. All is not gloomy though, as Snowdrops soon appear to herald the lengthening days and the imminent arrival of spring,
Happy Gardening from Alison
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