Winter is not all bare branches and empty garden borders! Camera in hand, I set myself the challenge of tracking down plants which brighten up the dead days of winter.
Even when frosted with ice or with a sprinkling of snow, holly can be relied on to provide deep greens and rich red berries. Ivy and mistletoe complete the trio of festive evergreens.
In the medieval, walled town of Pérouges, in eastern France, I spotted a collection of window boxes which combined Christmas baubles and pine cones with winter pansies and cyclamen. When it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations, the pansies and cyclamen continue to brighten up the window sills.
Decorating the house walls above them, traditional bunches...
With leaden skies and the days getting shorter and colder, it was time to inject a splash of colour on our front door step!
1. Skimmia, heuchera and winter pansies
A trip to the local garden centre is a great pick-me-up at any time of year, but on a chilly November day it was a heart-warming experience! Fairy lights twinkled and deliciously cute, fluffy rabbits waved from their glittery warrens as I passed through the Christmas grotto and out into the plant sales area. Of course, there wasn’t the huge array of colourful flowers you’d find at other times of the year. Still, there was plenty of choice for garden lovers hoping to cheer up their winter flower beds –...
No one wants their garden borders to be a muddy, lifeless patch in winter! Though a touch of frost can transform the dullest of gardens into a magical wintry landscape, most gardeners aim to create an outdoor space, with delights which are less transitory.
Choosing plants for winter interest usually means selecting attractive skeleton forms or handsome evergreen foliage, picking out plants with winter flowers or looking for colourful stems and interesting bark. All of these can make the winter garden a pleasure to view from your kitchen window.
When you get up close and personal though, it will be those heady winter scents which engage the senses and lift the spirit. With pollinators few and far between, the flowers...
December’s snow and ice have given way to rain and mud here in the Forest of Dean and, while I’ll be more than happy to dig out the toboggans again if the weather turns Arctic once more, for the meantime I’ve been seduced into thinking that maybe spring is just around the corner.
A prowl around the garden and – yes, the first white bulbs are appearing amongst the green shoots along the hedgerow. The snowdrops – harbingers of spring – are well on their way.
From late January, gardens all around the country start welcoming visitors keen to take advantage of that brief time of year when the ground is carpeted with a blanket of snowdrops.
I’m reliably informed that sloe gin tastes better and better the longer you leave it, but that’s a theory I’ve not had the patience to test!
The sloes we picked last October had been infusing the gin with their gorgeous berry flavours for three months when the serious business of bottling-for-Christmas began.
The eclectic assortment of bottles looked beautiful – lined up with their home-made labels and colourful twirls of ribbon – and I was all set to become the family’s favourite person this festive season. But what to do with all those gloriously alcoholic sloes?
Inspiration lay with the pretty petit four cases I’d once bought in a fit of domestic goddessness. Here’s the recipe for achieving top present-giver...