Suddenly it's winter...

Suddenly it's winter and there are frosty mornings too cold to go into the garden, rainy days and dark evenings sitting in front of the wood burner. Friends in northern hemisphere gardens write about summer flowers, roses and long lazy sunny days. Pictures in their garden books look quite unreal.

Monday 3rd June

This is a long weekend and so far I have only spent three hours in the garden. I'm puzzled that winter has suddenly sneaked up on me. The sun sinks low behind the Hump trees, far too early in the day for my liking, and there are three weeks until the shortest day. A few roses are still bravely in flower and the flaxes and red tussocks look wonderful.

 Sitting with my friend Big Fat Sifter in the winter sunshine.
Coffee with sifter

On Saturday I had a work commitment - don't ask - which stopped me from gardening. Then yesterday I took a book outside with my morning tea and read rather longer than I'd planned. I felt guilty, so worked hard clearing the Stables Border until the sun disappeared. These mid-day garden times are really mellow, with not a breath of wind. The sun is beautiful, if gutless. Any colours around the garden seem to glow, and the crab-apple is straining with red fruit. The pair of bell birds are still here up in the Hump trees, singing their signature tunes. Cats and dog like to stretch out on the driveway gravel, warmed by the sun. There is everywhere a mood of quiet contemplation. There's also very little noise.

Now today I am waiting for the sun to get up and the outside to warm a little. There is clear blue sky, and this will be another calm day. I have a few plans, but first will take morning coffee out there and just look around. The lawns need mowing. The edges need clipping. There are many borders which now need cutting back - and maybe some mulch could go on to make things look tidier. The Gunnera leaves need to be bent over. There will be no harsh decisions made today - instead, some quiet thoughts and a bit of gentle moving. Back soon.

 Brr... It looks like winter already!
The Plank


It's 4 o'clock and I am finally inside. I've poked and pottered today - raking leaves and cutting back dead perennial stalks. I have gently moved nothing except one of the new park benches to a new winter spot overlooking the Frisbee Lawn. I tested it for a couple of hours reading my book. It's a fine spot!

Saturday 8th June

It is younger son's birthday tomorrow. Daughter is visiting older son in London. They are having summer. We are having winter. The early mornings are starting to be annoying - obviously they are dark, but not quite cold enough to be ridiculous for a gardener, just enough to make me feel old and gutless. At least gardeners in parts of the USA and Canada get months of winter ground snow - they don't get a choice in winter. We do, and I think that's why a gardener in my climate can feel unsettled.

Today I have been in fine form, however. I have travelled slowly down the driveway clearing rubbish, trimming branches, and doing the first of the rose prunes (some straggly Cornelias which I have chopped fairly close to the ground). Now a huge fire is burning and I have come inside to get a drink. There is not a breath of wind outside and the temperature must be 12 or 13 degrees. It's beautiful in the fragile sun, and I intend to take my cup of coffee out to the newly placed park bench and read the Saturday paper.

 Coloured stems which look nicer than they taste.
Winter vegetables

Much later...

We have been to visit a hazel nut orchard. The grower also had a small set of grape vines, and he makes his own wine. I like the idea of this, and the nut trees also. Maybe this time next year the lucerne paddock will be planted in trees. I am allowed to have some non-functional trees, too, and am already making plans inside my head. Alas the darkness set in as we raced back home. I keep thinking about my mid-summer gardening friends, but why am I envious of them? Would I swap mid-winters with them? No way!

Tomorrow Stephen has promised to get out the chainsaw and to clear messy bits of old trees etc. from around the pond and at the end of the Hump where I started clearing today. A late afternoon fire would be nice, to keep warm as the sun sets and the temperatures drop. Tonight I will sit warm in front of the wood burner and draw up a plan for the lucerne paddock. I can see tree lined grassy driveways, and (unfortunately) swathes of old fashioned roses along the accompanying posts. Where should my personal vineyard go? I need to investigate the possibilities of making my own wine. Then of course I would have to drink it. Hmmm... so much to do - it might be better if I retired from my job.

Sunday 9th June

Happy Birthday Leroy! I have been clearing the chopped-down pond tree. It takes so long to clear and cut up. Then the burning bit takes about half an hour. Rain sent me running for the house and I have gone apres-gardening prematurely. Now the rain has stopped and there are two more hours of daylight. If I just sit inside I will feel guilty. Hmm... what to do? I have absolutely no energy, but this can always be overcome.

 I seem to be burning every day...
Burning Rubbish

Later, After Much Burning

I did it! I have done some more clearing and burning, it is now quite dark and finally I have retired. The fire makes the winter evening seem mild and it is satisfying to finish the day feeling a sense of fulfilment.

Saturday 15th June

It's 10 am and the log fire is burning. It's raining steadily outside and the weather forecast claims this will continue all weekend. I've been sitting upstairs staring out at the rain, looking at the trees with their few yellow leaves still left hanging in midair. It doesn't seem fair that the week has been mild, sunny, and jacket-free. I need to be in my garden this weekend - I feel like mooching around it, doing slow things.

I've decided that I don't know very much about gardening. I'm not learned enough. All the books I read are packed with information, but I don't seem to retain any of it, and I lack the correct vocabulary of plants and trees and shrubs. And I am simply not sensible enough. I never draw up proper plans and I don't think things through logically enough. Perhaps I should actually try to learn things (like names, species, growth habits etc.) by taking notes (I used to do this). Or I could go on one of those escorted botanical tours to China, for example, and raise my gardening intelligence that way. Hmm...

Pelargonium :
The variegated pelargonium that I grow has cherry red flowers.

Maybe I will tidy up the glass-house today. Then I could start off some spring seeds, and organise cuttings of the variegated pelargoniums. I could stay dry and snug inside and make a wet winter day wish list - a second pond, a moat (OK - it's a dream), a hazel nut orchard (not so much a dream, this one), a small vineyard (so I can retire and become a drunken gardener)... I might see if Stephen wants to go and visit the local nursery... Perhaps I could buy some seed packets of new varieties of pansies. They are the most cheerful of flowers. Hmm... decisions, decisions...

Later in the day...

I have spent three reasonably muddy hours moving pots into the glass-house and starting cuttings of my favourite frost tender plants - the peppermint pelargonium and the cherry flowering one with variegated leaves. I've also started cuttings of Helichrysum and purple sage. There is at least one mouse wintering over in there, too. Now I am back inside (with a change of shirt) in the warm feeling quite proud of my efforts. The trouble with rain gardening lies in the mud, not the water. What shall I do now? I will try and describe the garden.

Baby Pink Camellia :
This baby pink camellia is the very first in my garden to flower.

The lawns are soft underfoot and there are lavish sprinklings of weeds in the borders, plus a few spring bulbs peeping through the soil. Nothing looks particularly awful, but I've found a couple of rhododendrons which are totally sulking behind the glass-house. It's just too dry for them, and they were gifted to me, so they'll have to be relocated. The season is full of contrast - some Camellias are starting to bud-burst, while some of the roses are desperately trying to continue their summer flowering performance.

The crab apples are bright red, and there are families of fantails who twitter and swoop at me as I trundle past with my wheelbarrow. Fantails are the ultimate cat teasers, but here they seem to lead long charmed lives. The Liquid Amber (always late to de-leaf itself) has strange gold and green leaf pairs. The sun sets soon, at 5 pm, and already it is getting quite dark outside. Winter... hmm...