Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shares what’s going on in the garden this month
As I write, we are experiencing the first frosts of the season. We’re tucking up tender plants in the greenhouse, closing doors on the polytunnel each night and pulling a duvet of fleece over beds in cutting gardens. Winter is here.
Even in the rough waters of our time, Christmas will come. The sun rises, the seasons turn… and I forget where I put my warmest gloves! In a centuries-old tradition, midwinter is a time of celebration as the shortest day passes. We give thanks and look forward to brighter months.
I don’t mind the winter at all. I am fortunate to be outside most days, so shorter ones are a great relief after a busy harvest, preparing the beds for a winter’s recuperation. The cold is good for pests and diseases, too, with many plants needing this spell to trigger growth again. I adore the seasons – the completion and constant circular connection they maintain. It’s easy to say this when my work is entirely tied up in them, but, in order to truly benefit from the floral seasons, I must understand and value the others.
On dry, mild days, we deeply mulch beds, providing food for the worms. This enriches the soil as a ready larder for your plants next year. Any well-rotted, organic material will do – or order from Field Compost or Madingley Mulch. We turn our compost heaps – it is incredible how hot these will get afterwards – and continue the decomposing process. A favourite view is the wisp of steam arising from a newly built heap for days later. There is still time to sow tulips and finish off planting new shrubs and perennials. They might lift out of the soil after a frost, so press them down again with your heel. Planting now allows the roots to settle and get away next spring. It might look like the garden is dormant, but there is much going on under your feet.
In the low, cool light, I look to evergreens, bright red berries, shiny honesty paper pods and dried grasses, as the stars of the season. The smell of greenery in the house is wonderful. Decorating with foliage at the solstice is a tradition that has been carried out for hundreds of years, from Romans at Saturnalia to pagans in midwinter. It must be very human thing, when we continue the tradition in this time of such consumerism.
Oils from trees release in warm air and fill the house with seasonal scents
A wreath on the door is a wonderful welcome, but I particularly like hanging conifers, pine and cedar wood branches on picture frames, tucked in crevices of shelves and across the fireplace. The oils from these trees are released in warm air and fill the house with seasonal scents.
Foraging in hedgerows on a weekend walk is the perfect time to collect greenery for your home. Don’t forget to check you are allowed to gather, by consulting the Countryside Code and local council websites for public parks and footpaths. Only take a little, and be sure to leave plenty for wildlife.
We planted up pots of ‘Paperwhite’ and ‘Erlicheer’ narcissus to grow indoors – and there is still time for you to do the same to enjoy early next year. Blossoms on the shrubs sarcococca, viburnum x bodnantense and lonicera ‘Winter Beauty’ are delicious and should be planted in a spot that you pass every day. Their flowers are tiny and any other time of the year would be lost, but pollinators need a little extra help in the winter, so these diminutive blooms release heady scents. Just a branch or two is all you need by your bedside for a luxurious, natural room fragrance. Merry Christmas.
Anna’s Flower Farm will be hosting wreath classes this December, and you can also order wreaths and kits through the website.
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