It’s not every day that I turn to a 13th century Persian poet for inspiration. But, as I consider how to care for my garden over the next few months, Rumi’s words seem particularly apposite: “And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.”
I find myself worrying about my plants, many of which have their feet in the soil of an exposed slope in Lancashire. At my previous house where the only outside space was a backyard, I left it to its own devices once winter kicked in, doing cursory checks on various pots as the nights grew darker.
This year is different, not least because I have a summer of garden graft behind me and a wallet that is considerably lighter following numerous trips to the garden centre. My first thought was, ‘what would Monty do?’
I can always rely on Sir Monty of Don to set me on the right path. And if Monty is mulching, then so am I. Not having the space, time or inclination to make my own leaf mould (come on Monty, it is a bit of faff), I duly ordered numerous bags of pine mini mulch, poised to protect my plants through a tough Northern winter.
So now the mulch is down and multitasking (this thick layer will lock moisture into the soil, suppress weeds and, much like my winter duvet, create a barrier from the cold and frost). I’ll soon be breaking out the horticultural fleece and taking advice from the aptly named Adam Frost on how to attach it to tender plants. If it’s anything like putting the duvet cover on, I’ll be tearing my hair out.
The garden may be preparing for a long sleep but there’s no napping for me. As well as the plants and shrubs, there are other living things to consider, including the local wildlife. As such, I’m upping the number of bird feeders on my ancient plum tree (giving the cats something to look at if nothing else) and I’ve repurposed some old wooden boxes to provide shelters for hedgehogs and my resident toad. I hope the earwigs and other insect life also find their way into them for their winter vacation.
When the leaves drifted down from the trees last month, I left them where they fell. Yes, I know the naysayers urge gardeners to pick them up, fearful of clogged drains and disease, but, as far as I’m concerned, they are a free mulch and one that will rot down and provide plant roots with nutrients. They also provide shelter for a variety of animals and insects, essential components of a healthy and sustainable garden. Following the UK’s recent icy draft, I feel sure that I did the right thing.
With the garden still its infancy, my plans for a splash of winter colour are mostly still on the drawing board. Nevertheless, until December’s snowfall, I was enjoying the late beauty of Salvia Hot Lips. I look forward to admiring the Photinia Red Robin throughout this most unforgiving of seasons. And, if my bird feeders do their job, spotting a robin redbreast or two in search of a winter snack.