Not a lot happens in my garden in January. I feed the birds. I take the kitchen waste out to the compost heap. That’s about it.
I try to keep in touch with the garden in these little daily tasks. I know I feel good from even the briefest visit. The birdsong is especially uplifting: it seems that when there are no leaves on the trees, the birds are not only more visible, but more audible too.
The changes mainly come from light levels, with the days oh-so-slowly getting a couple of minutes longer each day.
This morning was my favourite kind of winter awakening. Cold, clear, frosty.
There are no more beautiful patterns than those made by nature. Research suggests that we are soothed by natural patterns, such as fractals. I would add the crystalline patterns of frost to this.
There is something mesmerising about observing the microscopic detail of frost. It is easy to lose yourself in the patterns.
There was another surprise for me this morning.
Bulbs are probably my No.1 source of joy in the garden. They take so little time and effort. All they need is to be planted in the autumn, in a pot of nice loose compost, maybe mixed with a little grit or sand, shoot pointing upwards, at a depth that is double that of the size of the bulb.
Miniature irises, like this one, Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’ are the earliest of spring bulbs to flower, perhaps with the exception of snowdrops. But they are much easier to grow in pots than snowdrops. Snowdrops like a dampish, woodland situation. I plant snowdrops under shrubs and trees, where they will not be sun-baked in the summer. I have to go out and look for snowdrops in spring, because they are hiding in the leaf litter.
I grow irises in pots, because they can be placed near the front door or gate, where they will peep out one morning and surprise you.
‘Pauline’ is the earliest little bird. I have planted several varieties of miniature iris in different pots, and I hope this will provide a succession of jewels through January and February.
I adore these little jewels. There is a delicacy; a fragility. But there is also fierceness; determination.
They have withstood rain, cold, frost. They stand firm where garden furniture has been flung across the garden. Each flower a little miracle, which has come seemingly from nothing.
If you suffer from mid-winter blues, I would encourage you to plant bulbs next autumn. One January or February morning, you will see tiny green shoots, and within a week or two, a little paintbrush smudge of flower. A few days later, as if the flower were spring-loaded, petals will have burst out in all directions, and this gorgeous little warrior will be standing proud.
Stay a moment and gaze at these finest of jewels.
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