Friday, 20 January 2012

Hedging your bets

There are several wise things said concerning he who plants a tree. (Never, you’ll notice, ‘she’ who plants a tree. One can only assume that ‘she’ is off mowing the lawn, weeding the borders, digging the potatoes and pruning the wisteria while ‘he’ has spent the last three hours just digging a big hole, sticking a tree in it and standing back to admire his handy work.) All things considered – excepting the suspect gender bias – the sayings are justified, for a tree is about as wonderful and awe-inspiring a thing as you can get, and to plant one is an act of generosity and hope for the future. But I have to confess to feeling slightly put out that posterity doesn’t seem to have bothered itself with preserving any choice epithets on the subject of they who plant hedges. Because, when all is said and done, what is a hedge apart from rather a lot of trees planted closely together? Of course, an individual plant within a hedge will never grow to the same stature as one of the same species grown as a standard tree – you’d never be able to sit in its shade, build a treehouse in its canopy or hang a swing from its limbs – but that's not the point. A hedge is a living illustration of the thing which is greater than the sum of its parts – it has to be more than a lineup of stunted trees, which sounds horrid, or we wouldn’t bother with the hedge at all.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Something rich and strange

Arrested by the heavy, soporific perfume of the Christmas Box, Sarcococca confusa, as I make my way into the garden today. It reminds me that I had intended to write a post this week on this wonderful addition to the winter garden but was beaten to it by Alys Fowler’s excellent piece in the Guardian.

He who snoozeth, loseth, as someone once wrote; Shakespeare, probably. So I’ll have to be content with uploading a photograph and cutting myself a few fragrant twigs to bring into the house.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

In, or out?

A ferocious wind has been blowing for the last few days, strong enough to tear off branches and throw trees to the ground. January doing its best to make an impression, for ordinarily this is a time of year marked by anticlimax – following on as it does from sparkly December and all the excitement of Christmas – cold, dark and grey. And while it’s true that you could spend scarcely a thought for your garden this month and suffer few consequences for the rest of the year, that would be a shame. There is work to be done now, whether outside muffled against the weather, or inside by the fire, marshaling resources for the year to come. This is the time for ordering seeds, for cleaning tools and forcing rhurbarb, sowing sweet peas and planting fruit trees, for moving shrubs and for establishing hedges.

Above all though, this is the time for new resolutions, for planning or – better yet – for dreaming of what the garden will be. You can’t do the planning until you’ve done the dreaming, so you should allow yourself the luxury of indulging your imagination this month. Books or magazines, blogs and articles in the lifestyle section of the weekend papers all provide a wealth of material for inspiration, helping you to picture how you want your garden to be, to look and, just as importantly, to feel, over the months to come.

A good enough excuse, should you want it, for staying indoors.