The Deep Midwinter

The winter solstice takes us out to the darkest, furthest reaches from the sun before we spin gratefully towards the light once more.

This year the moment of solstice technically occurs just before dawn on the 22nd December here in the northern hemisphere, making tomorrow night our longest. After that, we are officially reaching towards Spring as the days gradually lengthen once more to reclaim us from the dark. There will doubtless be hard wintry weather along that path, as so far our winter has been surprisingly mild, but from here on we can hold onto the thought of brighter days ahead.

Making the most of the increased light, if not warmth, of the coming weeks will be the seedlings that I am trying to nurse through until Spring. In the greenhouse, I visit these Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’ seedlings which germinated so strongly just a couple of months ago, some of which I pricked out a few weeks ago. Beside them, one of the two Echinops ruthenicus ‘Globe Thistle’ seedlings, that also came through from an autumn sowing, bides its time.

Echinops ruthenicus 'Globe Thistle' seedling

I hedged my bets and kept its sibling on the kitchen windowsill, where it has become a little larger, already starting to push pale white roots through the holes in the bottom of its pot, so I suspect I will be potting it on during the Christmas break.

Echinops ruthenicus 'Globe Thistle' seedling

While the quick-drawing nights and busy days make our visits to the garden rather fleeting at the minute, I am keeping an eye on various empty-looking pots of soil around the garden that I know contain other seeds, many of which require stratification to germinate. Mid-November I sowed some Tulipa sprengeri seeds into a terracotta pot, keeping them indoors on a warm windowsill for four weeks, before transferring them outside recently where the cold should give them the push they require to break dormancy. I will bring them in again in a few weeks and keep repeating this cycle of warmth and cold until I hopefully see signs of life. Another pot of the same seeds sown at the same time I placed directly outside – it will be interesting to compare the results between the two.

Pictured above is a rather delightful surprise – a Geranium psilostemon seedling. I sowed these seeds at the same time as the Tulipa, and this pot has been on the kitchen windowsill since, marked to go outside on New Year’s Eve for its own spell of colder temperatures. A week or two ago the delicate pinkish stem pushed up and unfurled two small round seed-leaves. A swell of green has since emerged where the leaves branch, so fingers crossed it will continue to grow and produce proper leaves, although one of the seed-leaves does look rather unhappy. I am hoping to gently ease this seedling into its own pot as soon as it is a little less fragile, to keep a watch over before I put the rest outside, as I suspect this delicate new growth will not welcome a sudden plummet of temperatures and potential frosts.

Such lovely glimpses of life in the midst of winter. What are you sheltering and coaxing through in your homes and greenhouses?

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5 thoughts on “The Deep Midwinter

    • Lovely! I look forward to hearing how you get on, I am tempted to try overwintering chillis. Ours had a very poor year this year. Think I do have one in a pot still in the greenhouse, but not the strongest specimen… I put our lemon verbena in the greenhouse for the winter too. If it makes it through I’ll plant it in the garden then overwinter cuttings each year just in case it’s struck down…

  1. I agree it is so heartening to see new plant life at this time of year. I’ve got a cold frame full of hardy annuals. It is a difficult balancing act of giving them enough water to not kill them through drought and not too much that I encourage mildew. Hopefully I can get them through to the Spring. Merry Christmas.

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