“Most people, early in November, take last looks at their gardens, and are then prepared to ignore them until the spring. I am quite sure that a garden doesn’t like to be ignored like this. It doesn’t like to be covered in dust sheets, as though it were an old room which you had shut up during the winter. Especially since a garden knows how gay and delightful it can be, even in the very frozen heart of the winter, if you only give it a chance.”
– Beverley Nichols
And how crazy is that, for the dormant season and the quiet time in the garden is anything but that: open your eyes and choose to listen and see, as your breath cools in the freezing air, even as the snow covers the ground, there are still troopers flowering and reminding us that even in the dead of Winter, Spring is but a heartbeat away.
Put on your best and warmest clothes, wrap up well, leave the fire just for a little while and we shall take a walk around the garden.
Winter is the season sandwiched between Autumn and Spring but has many different precise definitions: there is the astronomical season which defines itself as from the Winter Solstice when the sun is at its lowest and coolest in the Northern Hemisphere to the Vernal (Spring Equinox) when the sun shines equally on either side of the Equator and the day and night are (almost) exactly the same length. It falls on March 20th this year.
There is the meteorological season whose reckoning is that of the three coldest months: December 1st to the end of February. And there is the ecological winter which is distinguished by the growing season when the period of biological dormancy known as the hibernal season gives way to the pre-vernal. This can be as early as January in mild temperate climes such as our own.
Such variation in the definition of the seasons is matched only by the caprice of the British weather and seasonal fluctuations so we might be hit with a mini torrent of Spring in mid-February only to be blasted by Arctic Storms at Easter on this island whose very greenness is a product of its weather systems and geographical position.
So it is hard to exactly outline the beginning and end of the winter and during our perambulations we can appreciate the true variation and diversity not just of our climate but of our flora.
When it appears there is NO activity in the garden from a casual glance at the freezing outdoors from the comfort of the sitting room fireside seat and soothed by the scent of forced Hyacinths, should you care to step outside, we shall find signs of life and prevernal activity everywhere, not least with the birdsong. (I have noted over many years this changes around the Winter Solstice.)
Our own Christmas Rose usually appears around the date of our Wedding Anniversary, December 18th (how cool is that!). Here it is:
Our Winter Jasmine flowers bravely from November, the Viburnum throughout and so on. And if you care to put your nose very close to the ground you will find the Snowdrop has a scent so exquisite it takes one’s breath away.
We shall continue our Winter Walk shortly, but for now here is a momento of those wonderful companions of our Winter wanderings: hellebores, ivy, viburnum, early snowdrops, and our perennial catkins lacing throughout these courageous winter warriors. A basket of winter flowers to warm any heart I hope.
“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.”
– Gertrude S. Wister