In an issue of The Spectator from 1792 Joseph Addison quotes his old friend the kindly country squire, Sir Roger de Coverley, “I have often thought, says Sir Roger, it happens very well that Christmas should fall out in the Middle of Winter”. This seems a sentiment which many of us will feel very comfortable with. After all, a picnic of roast turkey and Brussel sprouts in the middle of Zaire or an overheated barbecue on a beach in South Australia does not appear to have much of a festive appeal. Neither of these options could be called cosy. And it is this element of cosiness which is essentially a northern affair. We are also much in need of cheer to boost our diminishing optimism as the days shorten. It's time to bring the garden into the home. We can plunder overhanging evergreens, rescue those feisty seed heads which have outwitted the autumnal attack and gather in the drying hydrangea blooms to be stuck into vases or popped among the greenery.
It is the greenery that sets the tone for Christmas, celebrated in many songs and carols. Green and red, of course: the archetype festive combination. In our front garden stands a large umbrella specimen of Cotoneaster waterii, a variety which gives really good value. In winter, it displays a mass of red berries against dark green foliage. Once the thrushes, both resident and migrant, have had their fill the leaves fall away to be replaced by small umbels of whitish blossom humming with bees. The fruit sets and the cycle restarts. Throughout all the seasons it never lacks interest. This year it bears a mass of leaves and scarcely a red berry. Lack of proper pollination in spring perhaps, or it has decided to have a sabbatical, or is there something more sinister in the air? Short commons for the birds this Christmas. The accompanying picture shows the abundance of fruit last winter. No need for decorations or fairy lights in the garden.
Optimistic as ever, we await next year with a greater sense of hope and relief if things go right.
As far as future plans for the Gardening Club are concerned, these are still on hold. We are patient folk in the main and look forward to those shoots and blooms which are starting to show. Still time to plant some bulbs - not too late for tulips; my late planting record for tulips is February 21st and they still flowered nicely.
Keep an eye on the website should things start to move into a different gear: wellsgarden.club
In the meantime, have as good a Christmas as is possible and a bright and colourful new year. Pip