I was going to first say sorry it’s been a while since my last blog; but should anyone have to apologise for what we feel are our shortcomings (when we’re struggling), or having to take a step back; now that we’re finally spreading the word; “it’s ok, not to be ok” and advocating to remove the stigma around mental health. Ultimately, we all have mental health, and it’s just as important to maintain, as our physical health.
For me personally, it’s not always easy to plan with the cycles that come with Bipolar; some days I feel I could take on anything and others I can barely manage to get dressed; not helped with the cold days and nights drawing in. But that’s how it goes sometimes in life, with or without a mental illness; life changes, priorities shift, much like the changing of the seasons. Which brings me nicely to my topic for this blog; gardening and life through the colder months.
Autumn into winter
At this time of year as everything is preparing to sleep for another winter season (which is often what I also feel like doing over the winter), it’s easy to see at first glance how this could seem like a sad, dull, lifeless time of year, as far as plant life goes; especially when you look at most UK streets and gardens. It can be a hard time of year to keep positive, motivated and moving forward in life and recovery. I personally hate to say goodbye to the last of those late flowers and warm sun, as I brace myself for the cold, dark days to come.
But once all the bright, lush, eye catching plants of summer start to recede, many of their other characteristics emerge. Many perennials, deciduous trees and shrubs put on a beautiful show of colour in the autumn; turning from green, to shades of golden yellow, bronze, amber and scarlet reds. Before finally drifting to the ground and making a glorious carpet of colour; which is great fun to run through and kick around (bringing back fond childhood memories). Fruits and berries become more prominent again; there are so many colours and one of my favourites being Callicarpa bodinieri, with it’s violet berries, much like little painted pearls.
This is winter, in my garden
It’s hard to imagine a tropical style garden looking anything but empty in the winter, as so many of the plants are from a warmer climate.
But when I designed our garden, the seasons were one of my first thoughts, as I didn’t want to have a garden for just the summer months. I wanted to be able to enjoy it, all year round. This was especially important to me, as it plays a crucial part in my mental wellbeing. It’s my playground, my therapy, my place to reconnect and thrive. Looking into a desolate space six months of the year, would make anyone feel glum and uninspired; so I added planting that would give structure, year round colour and interest.
When I look out of my kitchen window during the winter months, there is a fascinating transformation taking place, following on from the summer months. As the final displays of autumn finish and while many plants tuck themselves away for another season, the space is anything but sad and desolate. There are lots of plants that endure our weather and fight on through, to give my garden its warm subtropical vibe and interest all winter; even if it is a bit too cold to sit outside, sipping a cocktail.
I can now see parts that were once hidden from view; the bones of a garden; the structure and architectural shapes, which gives the garden it’s character. Such as the Trachycarpus palm evident before, yes, but now in winter, it becomes the striking tropical focal point; with its large leaves fanning out from the centre of the garden. This is under planted with the arching strappy leaves of the Phormium, which delicately dip into the now clearly visible pond, which had been mostly hidden from view amongst dense foliage throughout the summer. Both these plants help to create a tropical feel and make themselves at home in a UK garden. The lush foliage of the tree fern (Dicksonia antartica) remains all year and the dense rhizome trunk is now clear to see; as are the honey colour stems and structure of the braided Willow. So far my Hardy bananas which don’t typically like the cold and wet (much like me) have remained unwrapped, enjoying the milder weather.
Even though it’s cold outside, I know it will soon be spring again. There is still plenty to be done in the garden before then; although the motivation to get out there at this time of year doesn’t come so easily. However, looking out at a space full of colour, interest and intrigue, helps draw me back out there.
So remember; these cold months of the year can in fact be just as full of colour, beauty and wonder, we just have to look that little bit closer.
Go see what you can find and let me know.