It doesn’t seem like five minutes since we were all baking in what felt like endless heat. The summer was one of the hottest on record. Here in York temperatures in the high twenties and low thirties became the norm. It made for some challenging working conditions at times even if I rarely had to don the waterproofs, grit my teeth and battle on through the rain.
The good weather continued into autumn and I started to feel I was going to make it to Christmas without too many occasions where I resembled a drowned rat. The last few weeks of mild, wet weather have quickly put an end to that thought.
So with December finally here I’m enjoying the end of term feeling even if I’ve got jobs in the diary right up to the Christmas. I get more time to catch up with my admin, read some gardening books and blogs and do all those jobs I never get time for in the summer.
Winter isn’t a completely dead season in the garden. There’s a lot going on out there. There’s even some colour to be had. My camellia is flowering already, my Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurescens ‘Freckles’ is covered with flower buds.
The Cosmos have only just exhausted themselves after a late summer and autumn of hectic flowering, there’s a rose or two hanging on here and there, likewise a few lavatera flowers. The hellebores are looking primed and ready for their moment in the precious February sun, green tips of snowdrops are poking up here and there.
If you’re in need of an urgent colour injection there’s plenty of winter pansies and cyclamen around in garden centres/nurseries/ supermarkets. Winter pansies in particular always impress me. They look so insubstantial and a little frail but put up with everything even the most extreme winters can throw at us. They issue their challenge to weather in yellows, white, purples and reds. Dot them around your garden like season long Christmas lights.
Planning ahead you might want to consider planting a patch of winter flowering heathers or a Japanese Quince. Sink the corms of winter aconites in a spot beneath a tree, likewise snowdrop bulbs. Mahonia with their in your face yellow flowers shine like a beacon in the darkest months, the stems of dogwoods stand out against the grey.
It’s really hard to predict what the winter will have in store for us. This time last year the few days we spent in Newtondale by the North York Moors Railway line was crowned with the white stuff.
And it was still snowing when my Spring diary began in March. If the early days of Winter set the tone for what’s to come then we can expect mild and wet. Different winters present different challenges not least in a city where the water that falls in upland areas and turns peat black has to pass through on its way out to the sea.
Whatever the winter has in store it’s a good time for gardeners to put up their feet a little and congratulate themselves on a job well done. It won’t be long until there’s barely chance to draw breath again as the seasons roll relentlessly on.