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"I’ve never had so many good when I work in the garden". John Erskine

January 2009

Oh yes! we say, as we usually do on the first day of the year.

“The door opens, the door closes.”

I say Happy New Year to all garden friends and garden enthusiasts out there in the big, wide world. Here we have Sweden, the first of January 2009!

The seasons of the year pass by, and the years themselves do the same. As with everything else, one lives on hope. This isn’t the first time that I’ve said so, and it certainly won’t be the last.

I wander around our little garden and take a look; the snow hasn’t yet fallen where we live. However, the white frost lies so fine; the ground is cold and I’m grateful that I’ve managed to get all of the bulbs into the ground. I’ve covered our roses and also laid a thick layer of oak leaves under the rhododendron bushes; this is something one SHOULD do, but be that as it may, for some reason it doesn’t always get done. As the Bible says, “To everything there is a season”, and just now, at the beginning of January, my body is beginning to tingle with anticipation. One lives on hope— in spite of everything, it is the first month of the year.

What things can one find to do to get through this l o n g month? Why not stay one step ahead – take the opportunity to rinse out old plant pots and take care of the garden tools; nothing gets done by itself. There’s always something to do, whatever the weather, wind and season; it’s just a question of finding time. But look forward as well — that’s something one must do even where gardening is concerned. Already now, at the beginning of January, my fingers are beginning to itch. What should I do this year? Just wait and see.  Already now, I’m busy going through seed and bulb catalogues and deciding on orders to place. I’ve got lots of plans, including realisation of the many dreams that didn’t come to fruition last year.

The end of December/beginning of January is the time for pruning our grape wines in accordance with accepted wisdom. I’m a novice in this area and recently planted my first few vines. Truth be told, only time will tell whether I succeed or not, but it’s worth trying. Why not try yourself!

It’s so wonderful to see the pond covered with ice. Since we have fish, an air pump is required; in the wintertime, a weighted foam polystyrene “lid” is placed in the pond to float above the air stones which discharge the air from the pump into the pond. The air bubble which collects beneath the lid prevents the water from freezing over totally, and any light hydrocarbon gases resulting from the decomposition of waste in the pond is released. This air pump/foam polystyrene lid combination worked extremely well last year (the pond’s first winter), and hopefully it will work this year as well.  It’s quite remarkable to seen the goldfish, almost still, beneath a thick layer of ice.

I putter around our garden and wish all of the fruit trees — apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum and the walnut tree — “a good rest, a good harvest”.

I’ve taken my little tour around our garden on the first day of January 2009. It’s now time to go inside. But what about the birdbaths… oh yes, they’re standing here. Before I go inside and lie down, I’ve got to fill up the food on the bird-table. The birds must also live. Those small lives bring so much to the garden. I love my small birds.  

Every year, the same difficult question has to be faced: what should I do next? When one has a garden, it’s so enticing to try a few different things, different seeds, etc. At an early stage, I realised that growing vegetables didn’t really appeal to me; that is, of course, a highly personal thing. Each season, though, I say to myself that I should try something new. For the coming season, curiosity has it got the better of me and I will, for the first time in my life, try to grow globe artichokes (Cynara cardunculus), both annuals and the perennial called Herrgård, which succeeds in Swedish cultivation zone 2.

I’ll be back soon. And so will spring – it’s on its way.

Happy New Year for 2009!

A Gentleman Gardener