Chronicle November 2008 | Chronicle January 2009

Greetings for the Holiday Season


"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments." Janet Kilburn Phillips

December 2008

It’s the beginning of December 2008 in southern Stockholm. Although it’s late at night, I’ve got to go out to take a round in the garden and see what’s happening. So many expectations. Dark December. Ahead of us lie January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November. It’s insane how the months just rush by; one minute you’re in the middle of a month and then it’s over within the blink of an eye. When we live in this climate, and particularly in this part of the world, it’s amazing how the seasons just march past.

We’ve now just entered December and, where we live, the snow hasn’t yet fallen (as it usually does at this time of year), nor has the Big Freeze arrived yet. The hose pipes for watering are still out. As I’ve said previously, I keep watering as long as there’s no ground frost.

But obviously a garden must also be allowed to rest. It’s so wonderful to see all the small shoots that want to push through, that don’t realise that there will be a winter, in spite of everything. Things are already beginning to happen in the soil and I’ve got to keep reminding myself that I mustn’t step here, mustn’t go there – I’ve planted all over the place. It’s so amazing how the garden changes in appearance between summer and winter, spring and autumn; the seasons are truly like a circus, offering an ever-changing kaleidoscope of sights and senses.

I work a good deal in our beloved garden. I want so much and there’s so much that we’ve accomplished in the past few years. I go around and wonder, look and plan: this can go here, that can go there.
-I see them, there’s coming here in the ground, it’s quite amazing! Clearly, I can never get enough of bulbs.

I feel a great sense of calm in the garden when I go around now, a late evening in December. I see all the buds on the rhododendron. 2009 will be a wonderful year for rhododendron and azaleas here in Sweden. For quite a few years there haven’t been as many buds as there are now, before the 2009 season. As for the end result: seeing is believing.

The garden in December. The spruce twigs have been collected and the pine twigs gathered in. I’ve displayed them on our window boxes, because now’s the time to decorate a little and see the garden from inside the house. Sit inside and look outwards. But as long as I can go around the garden, I’ll continue to do so despite the weather and the wind – a small thing like the weather shouldn’t stop a true garden lover.

One thing we shouldn’t forget in the darkest month in Sweden, before things gradually become lighter, is that small birds are so important in the garden. Think of how much they give back, not merely in terms of beauty but, for example, also by helping to carry seeds from one place to another. We have some wonderful birds in our garden. Most of them stay (for example, the robins, chaffinches and greenfinches) while others, such as the Bohemian waxwing, arrive in the autumn, eat their fill and then move on. Nor should we forget our wonderful woodpeckers.

It’s now, in December, that I seriously begin feeding the birds. It’s so wonderful to sit inside looking out, with bird feeders really close to the house. Look at the birds eating! They’re become ever plumper.

I know that perhaps it’s a bit early to begin feeding the birds, since they have enough to eat as long as there are berries and fruit on the trees and the ground isn’t frozen. But I can’t resist, I’m far too eager. The tallow balls are important for them – they’ve got to gain fat for the long, hard winter that lies ahead.

It is so wonderful to be able to help the birds in the garden, by feeding them and putting up nesting boxes. The boxes are now empty (one mustn’t forget to empty them in the autumn) and the birds are already beginning to fly in and have a little look. –Where am I going to live? Where should I lay my next brood? 

So, please don’t forget our feathered friends. Keep filling the birdbaths as long as possible and watch the birds bathing –their pleasure can give us so much pleasure. And, as I’ve already said, start feeding them NOW.

Winter approaches…

A Gentleman Gardener