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Seeing Beauty in February

You have to look the hardest in February for beauty. January is survival time, March and April throw themselves at you but in February, Spring is around the corner yet nowhere to be seen or felt. You can make a start by going to a nursery to find plants in colour now and plan a surprise for yourself next year.

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Garden Design - Regent's Park

Regent's Park has many wonderful secrets and here are a few of them, including a bronze sculpture in St John's Garden.

Spot the images- the oldest tree, an oak, in the park, the strange nodules of Taxodium distichum (no one knows why they appear), the unusual Helleborus 'Silver Dollar' and an old Horse Chestnut silhouetted against the sky.


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Cheerful Colour from Australia

To my mind there are five golden principles for garden design.

1) Making a garden serve the functional needs of the person

2) Having good structural bones

3) Proportionally well balanced

4) Interest throughout the seasons

5) An adventure in colour and tone

The following photos I took on my trip to Australia. Notice how the background colour is just as important as the focal colour (You can imagine swapping it for another colour and notice how that would change the whole composition)
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Garden design in January- Yin and Yang






A garden can still look good in January and the leaf colour and texture of evergreens mixed with deciduous shrubs can have its own beauty. But I have been thinking that it is not just the aesthetics of January that is relevant in this month, but our whole attuned towards nature. 


This got me thinking about Yin and Yang.


Most simply, the theory of Yin and Yang describes a world being made up not of opposite and opposing forces, but an experience in life where events and things are actually connected, sometimes complimentary and more often interdependent. So Winter is not the opposite of Summer but they are two sides of the same coin that transform into each other and rely on each other. One is not bad and the other good, but that they are two experiences that we can bring ourselves into alignment with.

 

If Life and Death are lovers, January is their secret rendezvous.

 

Originally from Australia my first Winter in England was overwhelming. I saw everything dying around me and the light was shrinking each day. When I saw my first cherry blossom in the Spring I felt reborn! So, I realised, things die back in the Winter so that they will survive and be stronger for the next Summer.

 

The decay we see in our gardens are forming the compost and rich soil for next year’s plant needs and the beds becoming fertile for the dormant seeds of Nigella, Nasturtiums and Marigolds. The cold season brings about the deaths of some plants that have had their time and new plants will grow into the space left behind. Plants that have lost their leaves have drawn inside themselves for protection and to conserve water before any possible freezes. The vibrant sap that plants and trees have been building up all Summer has fully descended into their roots. (Indeed the only sap left in the trunk and branches of trees is higher in sugar content forming a kind of anti-freeze as the sugar syrup has a lower freezing point than water.)

 

We often want to tidy up our gardens in January but just like order and disorder were seen as interdependent in ancient China, one leading to the other and back again, so to we can see mess and cleanliness in that way. The chaos of leaves, windfalls and storm scattered twigs are vital homes to the bumblebee, woodlice and hibernating hedgehogs. It is not until Spring sounds its trumpets that we need to get rid of the old to help bring in the new.

 

One quality of Yin is stillness. We can enter our garden and be affected by the quietness of life. The world spins more slowly on its axis and so can we as we move about. All our Yang efforts over Summer, the endless stimulation of the internet and TV, can fall away and we can be awash with the silvers and blacks and deep wet browns of a garden no longer full of restless and reproductive energy. It can be a time of contemplation where we can concentrate on where we have got to in our lives and relationships, what we achieved last year and for a minute let go of future hopes and plans. It can be a time of loneliness and, if we can allow ourselves to feel this most difficult of emotions, from this place a deepening can come, giving us a clearer understanding of what we need. A fallow feeling that tells us what is most precious.

 

We can enjoy the skeleton of branches that reveal the growth history of the trees and the windy forces that bent them and the sunlight that seduced them in particular directions. The seed heads of perennials, hanging like small empty purses, robbed of their seeds by birds and squirrels and the frosts that enliven the patterns of leaves and greenhouse windows. most of nature had gone downward. Summer’s wonderful electric expansion is a dim memory, seen in a few frozen grapes on a vine.

 

We can prepare for Spring gently, pruning fruit trees, roses, grapes, figs and wisteria knowing, as we cut off Summer’s excited growth back to fat fruiting spurs, that these places will be exactly where the plant will squeeze it’s juices and form its fruits in the year ahead.

 

And then the very first daffodil, or a burst of yellow from the spidery flowers of Witchhazel or bright Aconites in the woodland part of our garden. Even in the Yin there is Yang. Pink Cyclamen grow proud amongst the dry old roots of a Yew tree.

 

Janus, the Roman God of Transitions and Doorways, often thought of as the origin of the word January, is a two headed deity, looking to the past and also to the future. The world is momentarily suspended, Yin and Yang is in balance, they become indivisible, our garden becomes the theatre for this ancient stillpoint.

 

What to do this January in your garden

 

The biggest jobs are the pruning of deciduous plants like Roses, Wysteria and fruit trees.

 

The best place to go to learn proper pruning methods is a professional gardener, the RHS Pruning Manuel or Youtube !

 

Example- If you type in “Pruning a small apple tree” you will get all sorts of well meaning gardeners showing you what they do. Choose to listen to an expert though there are different options. Try RHS first.  Also make sure the apple tree looks like your one as there are different types.

 

Also in January you can sow in your greenhouse all sorts of vegetables ready to be transplanted in Spring into your plot.

 

Plus you can start to force your Rhubarb by placing as big a pot as you can find over the heads.

 

Where to visit this January

 

 

If you want to walk off those extra Xmas calories you can take a trip up to Kew Gardens. They have such a huge range of trees even in the middle of winter there is so much to see. Plus you can hang out in the cafes or Tropical Greenhouse for a warm break. They also have after-dark tours. Or visit a local forest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Garden design blending different styles into a natural Whole

This garden design, which we implemented this February, aims at creating what you might find in an hour walking in the countryside, into a single space.

We extended the patio and made new brick planters with more formal planting.

We created a formal lawn from high quality turf and in the remainer of the large lawn area we seeded with acid perennial wildflowers and an annual cornflower mix. This wildflower meadow will flow down the garden and on the right hand side reach a new wildlife pond.

Behind the pond we planted the dark green Portuguese Laurel to v=create an atmospheric grove with Spiribolos grass in front of that that will empty in frothy plumes over the decking at the back.

Paths will be created though the wildflowers with a lawn mower during the year.

From the pond a bark chip path flows into a newly planted woodland area.

We planted thousands of Bluebells, Snowdrops and Aconites which will come into their own next Spring.

Around the Black Bamboo we dug in a root barrier membrane and used a delicate black rope to tidy up the branches which tended to spread out all over the space.

In summary the design blends in formal, wildflower, contemporary decking and traditional woodland. We especially used different styles of planting, and plants that would transition from one style to the next, the unify the whole composition.

BEFORE


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