Winter is here – that’s official. Well, at least in my garden it is. Yesterday, 2nd December, saw the first heavy frost here and it put my garden to sleep in an icy, if pretty, crystalline blanket. Gone are the colourful dahlias and marigolds that were holding on; frozen, limp and black are the remaining fuchsia flowers, and even the winter pansies have taken a battering and are looking very sorrow for themselves. But they will recover to bring colourful patches to brighten the short winter days, as will the other plants in the garden recover come spring.
Despite it being the worst summer on record for rain, the seeds scattered about, mainly the wild flowers I love so much, were the only plants that failed to grow. The established ones, and the perennials in my little patch of heaven have had a good year and thrived. The roses were magnificent, if short-lived, the lilies were sublime and filled the patio with perfume for weeks, the fuchsias sung out with their pendulous flowers and the nasturtiums were brilliant. The pots of geraniums and petunias were gorgeous and the hanging baskets the best ever. But all the wet weather meant I couldn’t enjoy many mid-morning coffees outside, sitting and relaxing, taking in all the sights, smells and sounds, and I didn’t see my little field mouse that often, although I knew he was there from the few glimpses of him I did manage. And most mornings as I ventured across the soggy grass to refill the bird feeder, I spied the hedgehog’s little black calling card.
Many of the so-say experts professed it was a disastrous year for the insects, with very few bees, few birds and even less butterflies. They obviously didn’t know about my garden, for if they had, these experts would have seen bees and bumble bees almost in swarms, the air constantly buzzing. The birds, particularly my gang of sparrows were always in the shrubbery, the flock now well over thirty. And as for the butterflies, this year we lost count of them, seeing many species we haven’t seen fluttering about for many years. They are as elusive as the Val Doonican song of many years ago, for try as I might to photograph them, the moment they sensed I was near they would all fly off. Either that, or they are camera shy.
We have growing over the garden fence from a neighbour, several buddleia bushes. I wondered whether it was these, along with my own black prince buddleia, a beautiful deep purple colour, encouraging the butterflies in. But when studying these creatures, most were to be found on my erysimum plant – a perennial summer form of wallflower – for they seemed to always congregate on this plant. At one stage we counted fifteen butterflies in the garden, and this excluded the common cabbage whites which, oddly enough, were rarely in the garden this summer. Of course, all this meant there were plenty of caterpillars chomping their way through the greenery. But I didn’t mind, they are next year’s beauties and the birds have enjoyed the extra food.
So whilst it all looks dead and forlorn out there, it’s given me a chance to reflect on what has been, and already I’m planning how it will look next year.