I visit the garden on the first day of the new year, not expecting much. It’s chilly, the wind nibbling at my fingers as I write these notes. The garden is dormant, though there are a few flowers here and there that have not read the rules: a small Viburnum tinus, an evergreen shrub, with its cluster of small white flowers, a chrysanthemum whose daisy-like flowers have lost track of the seasons, a couple of bright yellow marigolds alongside the pergola who really should know better.
The pond is full to the brim and the water irises withered. The only fauna I can see are snails; a pair on the surface appear to be mating. At 8ºC! There’s dedication.
The greenhouse is all but fully glazed, just a small triangle required. The ‘glass’ is polycarbonate, a clear plastic so tough it is used for babies bottles, regularly tested against hard pavements. There are a few cacti in residence. Over the next few months staging will be made, so the glasshouse can be fully utilised.
There’s a dwarf moai in the wild flower area. It is modelled on one of the huge statues of Easter Island; at 2 ½ feet it’s bout 1/6th the size of the original. Our moai is stern, quite censorious; they are deified ancestors, so it is just as well the figurine is immobile. There is one, not a model, in the British Museum that Easter Islanders want back as it was stolen by an English sea captain in the 19th century. Ours though is kosher.
All the water barrels are full, including the metre cube. They would be, when we have no need of water, reminding me of mid summer when we were carting buckets across the road to assuage the drought. Kevin had a hose out of his second storey window to the gate where we filled up. If there had been a hosepipe ban, the garden would have died on us. And this summer, if it’s hot and dry again, if there’s a hosepipe ban – what’s the plan?
There’s a surprising amount of birdsong. I see a bevy of finches in the sycamore that leans over the fence with its debris of Russian vine. The feeders by the arch of the quiet area are empty. We have been feeding squirrels as well as birds.
The new compost bins are finished. There’s two, made of slatted planks, about four feet square and high. We’ll get good compost if we don’t put in too much woody material. By the side, covering the fence is ivy, a plant that retains its leaves over the winter. It’s a strategy that means ivy doesn’t waste time in spring but gets on the move straight away, while deciduous plants have to go through the chore of first growing leaves so they can then photosynthesise and catch up.
At one side of the back stage is a dead cherry tree incorporated in the staging. Growing all over it is a bracket fungus called turkey tail (Trametes versicolor). Seen from underneath, it’s like chewing gum stuck on the bark. But looking down on it, there’s an intricate semi-circular brown pattern in each ‘ear’ which gives the fungus its common name. It’s a great surprise in what I thought was a dormant garden.