No matter how your festive season is looking in this strange and uncertain year, setting aside some quiet time for a little garden dreaming and planning may provide some much-needed escapism.
Late summer and autumn were not that long ago, and the earliest signs of spring and the new year will come sooner than you’d imagine. December provides a moment to step out of the seasons and think about the full year in the garden.
In this era of social media and access to digital cameras, many of us take huge numbers of photos of our gardens. It is typically when things are looking good that we take photos, but it is good to regularly take some simple reference shots to use as a visual diary of how the garden looks and changes as the seasons move through. Long winter nights are perfect for looking back through the year’s photos. Making a few notes about what really worked well, and things you’d like to change in the coming year.
It can be fun to draw on photos, removing and moving things and playing around with colour and shapes that create rhythm and contrast around the space. Think about opening up views, creating vistas, or screening any eyesaws. Get outside and look at the winter bones of the garden. Printing out a few photos and making a collage with magazine cuttings really gets the imagination going. Of course, being realistic about what you can achieve, but dreaming is productive too.
If you’re eager to get out into the garden to really let off some steam, there are a few tasks that will need to be done before the winter is out. Apple and pear trees can be pruned, climbing roses can be pruned and trained, and bare-root trees and shrubs can be bought and planted. Giving greenhouses and cold frames a good clean, and generally sorting out those forgotten corners that become ‘dumping grounds’ is also something you’ll thank yourself for, come spring.
Dive into gardening books and magazines, seed catalogues, photos of gardens you’ve visited, any pictures you’ve saved from websites and social media. Run a few web searches for inspiring design images relevant to your garden e.g. “small shady urban gardens”. If you’re not sure, do some research on plants suited to your conditions too.
When researching and planning, the aim is to arrive at somewhat of a clear and realistic plan for the direction you want to steer your garden in over the coming years. Like any plan, they change as we go, and our minds change as we learn about our space and our tastes change. But honing in some key themes will really help you create something really special and unique, rising above and beyond the “this and that” mish-mash that gardens tip towards without any clear vision in place.
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” (Gloria Steinem)