A New Year. A time to renew. A time to tidy up, to clear the decks, a time to scrub down and a time to make a good, clean start. What's more, if there's one thing we have learnt during the past year it is the importance of adequate and frequent washing. Not for a very long time has personal and domestic hygiene been so paramount in our lives. In 13th century England King John, the much derided, was widely regarded as an eccentric obsessive since it was his custom to bathe at least eight times a year. This in an era when the monks of Canterbury were required to take a bath on Christmas Day and to wash their feet once a month. We have come a long way since then. Someone said that God made rainy days so that gardeners could get the housework done.
Looking out of the window on a dark, dank, unforgiving afternoon in mid-December the invitation to get out and tidy up the mess is downright unappealing. Moreover, there is no real obligation to adopt the same approach to the flower borders as to the bathroom or kitchen. After all, the garden is Nature's realm and Nature is not a great one for the dishcloth or dustpan and brush. Those forgotten piles of pruning harbour innumerable creatures unknown to us, the seed heads are food for the finches and the bugs and ladybirds find accommodation for the winter among the remaining vegetation. In this garden, we picked and dried flower heads from the hydrangeas for seasonal decoration. We were immediately infested by countless small black flies - fodder for the orb spider which had taken up residence over the kitchen table. It was revealing to find that what appeared to be of little horticultural use had in fact an invisible but valuable function as a winter residence for so many creatures. So, before we all become gardening Genghis Khans it might be worth remembering that bars of soap and bottles of hand gel do not exist in the natural world. Let's hear it for the lazy gardener and keep the bustle of tidying for another week or two.
Things may change for the better or even for the more normal in a few months. In the meantime, on behalf of the Wells & District Gardening Club, I would like to wish all those who have a garden, and all those who have not, a happier and healthy 2021. Pip.