Wells Voice Article January 2024

Generally speaking, the British are a pretty hardy lot. A small example of this resilience in the face of adversity is in the fact that someone, somewhere along the line, invented “The Winter Garden”. Why they thought that this was a really good idea is up to conjecture. There it is. We are staring at it through the misty window and can see for ourselves what it is. The winter garden. The name itself brings to mind the seaside amenity during a spell of dreary summer weather. Namely, what nowadays looks like a deserted engine shed with tatty old posters offering the joys of Orlando and his Novelty Quintet, Cilla and Billy the riotous fun makers, Gomez and his Dancing Cat and so on. Those days are long gone. There is no room for frivolity in today's winter garden.

Looking at it from the inside, it presents a bit of a challenge. Serious gardeners have already tidied things up. Flower heads cut back, roses pruned and tied into place, the dead, diseased and damaged all dispatched. The question arises; do we rise to the challenge or not? My beds are still full of vegetation, browned and frosted. Seed heads still sway in the wind. Berries still hang on to the twigs and branches. Fallen leaves, windblown through the borders, rot away among the shrubs. Another question: why not let nature take its course? Which is exactly what Sally Nex, author, gardener, and environmentalist, proposed at one of our meetings last year. Leaves between the plants mean a natural mulch. It's what nature does. Ladybirds lurk in the seedheads. Piles of twigs etc give shelter and food. Following Sally's advice, I shall leave it all till later. There are rewards, though. What my wife in this dreary time of year classes as micro joys. One of which brightened a dismal day for a few minutes. Through the murky glass of the window a flock of goldfinches descended on the remnants of the evening primroses feeding voraciously on the seeds. A sight to lift the spirits. And if we want to see a proper winter garden, then hightail it to The Bishop's Palace where the two long winter borders are coming into their own. Replicate that, on a smaller scale of course and you have your own winter garden. All the planning has been expertly done for you with the result that the puzzle over the ingredients is over.

Now talking of puzzles, the next meeting of the Gardening Club will involve a small informal quiz where tables of collective brains try to find an answer to a vaguely relevant question or two. The meeting is open to everyone interested in gardening at whatever stage. Admission will be free for this event and there will be a raffle, a festive spread and a chance to enrol for the year's programme of talks and visits and chat about gardens. Everybody is very welcome. Details as follows:

Thursday 11th January 2024 at Wells Town Hall at 7.30 pm. Pip.