Monday, 10 November 2014

winter already?!

How did that happen? Two weeks ago we went for a lovely walk, on a Sunday afternoon, warm enough to walk in shirt sleeves. Yes, it looked a bit autumnal - the leaves were thinning and the light had that slightly golden quality but there was still real warmth in the sunshine.

And the skies were blue...

...reflected in the water...

There were golden leaves on the branches but plenty of green ones too...

...and it was absolutely warm enough for a cold glass of golden bubbles to be enjoyed...

So how much of a shock has it felt for the temperature to suddenly drop about 10C, even if this is what we should be expecting for early November!

But it has been a good opportunity to do some therapeutic clearing in our little courtyard. The plants were so overgrown that I took a deep breath and then did some major pruning, digging and sawing. Three car-loads later (the buddleia had a 4inch trunk!), it looks a bit bare but I uncovered a couple of roses, a peony and several bulbs already trying to peep through. My little table is a bit more exposed now but I hope next year the plants will grow back healthier and easier to manage. And, worst case scenario, if the old plants like the buddleia and hydrangea (I discovered the 20 year old hydrangea was actually in a 12inch plastic pot, with its poor roots trying to force through the holes) don't survive the shock, then I will have to think about replacing them.

I'm sure lots of the plants have self sown over the years. that grassy thing in the background (which has vicious sword like leaves and underwhelming seedheads) had a much bigger brother where the pots are standing, which had been there so long that the centre of it was completely choked with dead leaves. It had made getting to the table in the summer something of an obstacle challenge so I spent about 3 backbreaking hours digging it out altogether  and have planted out wallflowers, lavender and tulips, which I hope will fill the space with colour until I can think a bit more about what shrubs or perennials might be more suitable. I think the other grassy thing will go too at some point, but I'm not sure the neighbours (or my back, come to that!) would have coped with any more clearing. There is something of a delicate balance gardening a shared courtyard - I'm the only one who really does anything out there but, technically, the ownership is shared so it does feel a bit like hacking back someone else's hedge!

I needed a bit of colour out there so have planted the pots with cyclamen, primroses, pansies, narcissi, tulips and forget-me-nots. Makes me feel optimistic about the promise of spring.

This space is where the hydrangea was; it grew across the path and on wet days its saucer-like leaves had a habit of emptying water over you on your way in and out of the house. So, I cut it out of its pot and planted it in the ground, then replaced it with this red cordyline and some winter heather, underplanted with bulbs (can't remember what I put in this pot so that will be a nice surprise!). In all honesty, I'm not quite sure this goes hugely well with all the 'cottage garden' plants but if it just brightens my pathway for the winter that's fine by me.

I have decided life is full of compromises, some of which you don't expect to have to face, but all of which have positive sides too and its about embracing new opportunities rather than feeling too sad about the things you've had to leave behind. The last few years have taught me that you cannot predict the responses of others, even if you think you know them very well, and that some friendships and relationships have to be consigned to memory. Similarly, the things I thought I couldn't manage without, actually, are really very few. Sure, I do miss a 'proper' garden and I would love to be able to hang washing out in the breeze... But, I love to be able to just walk out of my door and be in the city in minutes. This is my regular route into town...

...and home again...

Could be very much worse. And I am still discovering new open spaces and walks that are not far at all from home. This little walk is just minutes from the university but feels as though you are in open countryside. With a very friendly little donkey and his horse friend just wandering by the river...

I'm not good at winter. I dread the short days and feel miserable in the cold. But I am conscious that life is precious, and short, and I am determined to not spend that time feeling sorry for myself. I have a family that I love and friends who keep me sane. And it really is ok to have time to be alone sometimes. There is lots out there to be thankful for.

And, oh my goodness, it really must be winter - because this is round the corner...!

Best get on with the day!!

S x


  1. You make me feel so guilty with all your hard work in the garden - I really should make myself get out there and cut things back while it's still relatively dry. Everything always seems to benefit from a good pruning and I'm sure your lovely courtyard will be all the better come the Spring. Your walk to work and back looks lovely and donkeys are one of my favourite animals - he looks like a real Sweetie. Have a good week. x

    1. I think the gardening's therapeutic- always feels like I've achieved something with my day! Looking forward to seeing what it looks like in the spring :) x

  2. Your plants look all the better for some extra light. I adore donkeys so would have to stop x

    1. I think the plants look better too, definitely needed doing. I think this might be an ongoing project! He was a very cute donkey, so friendly :) x


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