Gardens often feature here, after all they are the places where monkey puzzle trees are to be found. Gardens on a grand scale – like Biddulph Grange in Derbyshire, like Speke Hall in Liverpool, and public spaces and parks like Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, Marbury Country Park in Cheshire, and smaller scale gardens, like Matthew Pottage’s garden in Hull.
These green spaces are important to us, we need them, we enjoy spending time in them, and if they are the green spaces we look after, we enjoy cherishing them. For me they are essential. I felt this most keenly today whilst spending time at my own modest plot of earth, Plot 44 Greenbank Lane Allotments in Liverpool.
It’s the darkling time of year, when the day slips away early, having started late. I find these short days really difficult, although I know the flip side of them is the magical long spring and summer evenings that I adore. These past few weeks have been grey and overcast, so when the sun begins to emerge today, I am elated, as I have time off work, and have planned ‘an allotment day’.
It’s the time of year when I enjoy the garden tasks, like stocking up the wood store for winter fires for comfort and cooking.
We haven’t seen the sun for weeks, and the low golden sun makes everything look special and precious. Even wood. And especially Miscanthus seed heads.
It’s so sunny that even the hairs on the sempervivums are visible.
Very late clematis flowers are looking especially ‘sepal’ like. This is ‘Caddick’s Cascade’ that I bought from Caddick’s nursery in Warrington, a real star performer.
This clematis is crambling over the beech hedge that I planted 14 or 15 years ago as whips, looking forward to the day when the autumn sun would shine through and I could say, ‘I planted that.’
And the mahonia, another of my late flowering stars. And on days like this, when you stand under this the sound of the bees tempted out for foraging is gorgeous.
Fatsia japonica still attracting bees too.
This is a smaller Fatsia, still in a pot awaiting a home.
And the magnolia seems to stretch upwards and say, ‘I’m ready for spring.’ This is Iolanthe which I planted over a decade ago and come March the huge pink flowers are a talking point for weeks.
Of course no Araucaria fan’s garden would be complete without a Wollemi pine. I planted mine in memory of Rachel, a dear friend from Australia who died in 2012. I miss her.
And, naturally, nearby is my monkey puzzle tree, looking very well.
And clinging on still, another favourite, Melianthus major, loved by my father, Frank. We had leaves of this in his coffin spray.
And the snouty flowers which always appear right at the end of the summer or beginning of autumn.
It has been mild, and the quince has been tricked into flower. I picked this cultivar ‘Crimson and Gold’ for its flowers, but it usually produces enough fruit to make quince jelly.
Everyone is serene in this welcome burst of sunshine.
Garden gloves drying out. Everything is as it should be.
Tasks for the day are done. Kindling chopped.
Afternoon tea is had.
I can’t resist looking for the first signs of the snowdrops. They are here. Like they are every year. Emerging under the red stems of the dogwood.
There is a fragility to this time of year, a sense of ending, even with signs of new beginnings.
The short day coming to a close.
Ah, this is why I planted Miscanthus zebrinus.
Time to wash up.
And put things away in the shed/library/kitchen.
The fire burns gently.
A sliver of moon appears. The long night moon.
These rituals, these magical things. They are balm. When sometimes the feeling of living with uncertainty overwhelms, I think the solace of nature is the most healing. And today was pure balm.