And it all starts again…


Now I’ve proved to myself that I can be wordless on Wednesdays, I no longer feel the need – I think I just wanted to prove that I could shut up… occasionally. Which is just as well, because today the weather is unbelievably bad, and any photograph reflecting it would just be of rain. Or mud.

However, there were some better days, and the essential solstice task is done, albeit a little early: the garlic is in. Germidor and Albigensian Wight this year.


Last year was such a bad one for veg, and my alliums – usually pretty good – were appalling, so this is not so much a triumph of hope over experience as a belief that last year was an exception. My glass is evidently half full, or at least it is now. I’ve not got any purple sprouting or kale in this year for some reason; perhaps I was half-empty earlier, disheartened by poor performance when I should have been planting. But one of my neighbours did give me some mystery brassicas.

Any ideas?


Apparently the plants form heads. She’s Italian and described them as ‘sprouts’, then clarified herself when she saw my face (sprouts are the droppings of the devil – oh yes they are). They’re not sprouts, though they grow a bit like sprouts and not like the Russian kale the leaves resemble. I’m intrigued, and so keep checking to see if they’re doing anything. They’re not. Yet.

The bulbs, on the other hand, are.


It’s reaching the stage when you have to be careful walking over the meadow, but there’s just time for the final bonfire of the year – of the winter – which will take place on Monday. There are also some plants to go in (every good meadow needs a little editing), notably some teasels which are going to run along one edge. They look good and healthy,


which is more than can be said for the Salvia pratense seedlings. Those appear to be dead, but I’m hoping for dormant instead. The rest of the garden is certainly dormant, or nearly: there’s almost a sense of an intake of breath. It’s especially evident in the middle garden where there’s no sign of much actually happening, but a palpable sense of waiting. And then you take a closer look and realise that there are buds on the big hellebore, that there are tiny, tiny signs of bulbs (the meadow bulbs are always the first to brave the world), and that the most ancient of the rosemaries is just beginning to do its thing:


Down in the bottom garden, currently in training as a bog garden, there’s still a little colour in some of the Verbena bonarense heads.


Most, however, are brown and battered and while I had originally hoped to leave some of the seed heads on, I think I’d better do some tidying up. When I’ve found the thigh waders, that is.

The bed immediately in front of the house has much better drainage – well, it’s raised to allow for the slope and is held up at the front by a small wall – and still has some hardy geraniums hanging on. The last of the flowers went in the most recent cold snap, but the leaves of some of them have taken on a gorgeous orange glow. Very subtle, and I want to knit it:

hardy pardy

They’re so velvety; I do love hardy geraniums. I’m not without discrimination, mind: some are thugs and I’m repeating my offer of G. macrorrhizum album plantlets free to good homes, or even horrible homes, come to that – and they repay affection in so many ways. Lovely flowers, great ground cover (did I mention I was prepared to supply G. mac alb?), and then beautiful leaves in autumn and winter. Wonderful plants.

One of my resolutions is to do more about encouraging birds next year (so maybe I should leave those seedheads on the verbena). I always used to have a garden humming with bird life, and then Next Door’s Cat found it. She seems to have moved on – both other neighbours and to rodents and other small mammals – so I’m tentatively hoping to attract some of them back. The wrens have returned, but the jackdaw roost in the tallest of the ashes is, I suspect, putting off others. This tree is being hacked back in the new year, so that may help – I’m hoping the jackdaws will move to a more attractive look-out once it’s much smaller. Or just move. But something has had a real go at the Rosa rugosa hips already. I could only find one that was untouched:

rose hip

Most unusual for this time of year. I wonder if it presages anything significant?

(Apart from the alleged end of the world at the solstice, of course.)


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    I love the warm colour of the geranium leaf too. What do you want to knit? Christina

    1. kate says:

      It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I always have a hankering after autumn colours…

      I’m not sure about what to knit in them, though – perhaps a big shawl to wrap myself up in these chilly nights!

  2. paulinemulligan says:

    Its wonderful to see signs of new life in spite of what the weather is throwing at us at the moment. Bulbs are popping up all over the place because it is so mild, don’t think I dare walk on my borders any more. Two lots of snowdrops are out by the front door, can’t help but smile when I see them. Your geranium leaf is a lovely colour, just right for one of my borders!

    1. kate says:

      You have snowdrops??? Right, that’s not fair – I’m heading out to speak to mine now. The biggest clumps, though, are in a place which is more like a buffalo wallow than a garden, and I don’t think anything’s going to materialise there just yet….

      It’s a pretty geranium, isn’t it? I think – think – it’s Bertie Crug.

  3. Dobby says:

    After today’s weather, I don’t think it needs to be a bog garden in training. It probably is!
    Haven’g got a clue what the brassicas are, but they are very pretty.
    I’m glad your glass is half full. As today is the shortest day, (so I am told), we can all look forward to spring. Or is that a bit too optimistic?
    Merry Christmas.

  4. Is the mystery plant sprout Petit Posy – try Googling images.
    I do disagree with you about sprouts – I love them – maybe you are a supertaster. Apparently they are sensitive to tastes that many of us aren’t – something else to Google.

    1. kate says:

      It could well be, except there’s no sign of sprouts up the stem – mind you, that’s a plus as far as I’m concerned! I shall immediately investigate super tasters, as it would be good to have an alibi, rather than just saying ‘I just don’t like them’….

  5. Anna says:

    Well done on getting your garlic in – think it will be after Christmas here when I next get to the allotment – possibly even next year 🙂 Oh that geranium leaf is a glorious shade – I have Sue, one of Bertie’s relatives. As for your mystery brassica it could be a contender for ‘Petit Posy’ – relatively new on the scene and a cross between sprouts and curly kale. I bought seeds this year but never got round to sowing them. They are apparently milder than sprouts and have a sweet nutty taste. I’m most partial to sprouts though – they are not just for Christmas in this household 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Locally it’s ‘supposed’ to be in for the solstice, or so at least three people have told me – even one whom I would have said was the opposite of a garlic-lover. So if I don’t I’m slightly afraid I’ll be drummed out of the village, you see. (Actually it stopped raining. This was so remarkable that I seized the chance, but if it hadn’t suddenly brightened up I’d doubtless have missed the deadline.)

      I’m not sure about Petit Posy – that’s two of you now, shortening the odds – as it doesn’t look like most of the images. Mind you the caterpillas have given them a good going-over. Wait and see, I guess. Milder than sprouts sounds good. How are they on the wind front, I wonder?

  6. croftgarden says:

    A word of encouragement to keep your glass topped-up – Salvia pratensis usually dies down completely, so don’t despair I am sure it will reappear in the Spring.

    1. kate says:

      That’s a relief!

  7. Cathy says:

    Seeing as you have enjoyed mucking about in the garden today despite the weather wouldn’t you like to come and clean our chucks’ coop out as well – I’ll take some of your G. macrorrhizum album off your hands in exchange …… But seriously, well done for cracking on with it! (But seriously, if you want to…?)

  8. hillwards says:

    I love all the little signs of life around the garden. Especially when viewed on a crisp clear day, rather than a wet muddy one, of which there are rather a lot at the minute… My garlic went in late, and has put up very anemic curled shoots which had started growing in the packet – hopefully they’ll straighten and green up or we’ll have some very interesting harvests next year…

    1. kate says:

      Aren’t they heartening? And after today, the days will start to get a little bit longer, very gradually, and next thing you know we’ll be complaining about mowing lawns and weeding… nah!

      My garlic hadn’t quite sprouted, but my shallots were like that last year. They just didn’t get in for ages due to weather.

  9. wellywoman says:

    It’s such a great feeling to think we are moving towards spring I just hope winter doesn’t have too much of a sting in its tail. I did a tidy up last weekend and pulled out the verbena. It had taken on a bedraggled look brought on by yet more rain and was really just getting on my nerves so out it came. The garden looks much better now and when the bulbs finally start to appear they can shine.

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it? Mind you, I have a feeling we may have to go through the Deluge first – we’re building an Ark here – and I’m a bit worried about the bulbs in some of the wetter parts of the garden. (Er, that would probably be almost all of it.)

      The moment the rain stips my verbena is coming out too – and so are the nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’ remains. If you want to award a prize for tatty, then they’d really be in as a contender….

  10. Anna B says:

    Gorgeous photos! No idea what your mystery brassica is?! Please let us know if it develops any form of sprout!! Merry Christmas Beangenie! 🙂

    1. kate says:

      I’ve got this theory that it’s a sort of Sprout God, come to lead me back into the ways of righteousness and sprout appreciation. I could be wrong, but watch this space (I may have been reading too many Peanuts strips, featuring Linus and the Great Pumpkin)…

      Merry Christmas to you too!

  11. Juliet says:

    I love that orange geranium leaf – glorious.

    As far as the world ending is concerned, R sent me a cartoon of a very depressed-looking Mayan sitting at a bar – the barman is saying “Cheer up pal. It’s not the end of the world” 😀

    Happy Christmas!

    1. kate says:

      That is absolutely brilliant! ho ho ho!

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