November’s last sunrise flared crimson and purple above frost-white fields and gardens.
The sun rose swiftly, a flaming red ball, quickly swallowed by low pale clouds to restore a delicate watercolour palette to land and sky once more. The temperature in the greenhouse was only -1 C, with a recorded minimum a couple of degrees colder still.
On the eve of December, the garden has at last embraced the change of season; the borders finally subsiding with a sigh into the soft browns and greys of their winter coat, crisp brown leaves stuffed into their pockets, rustling.
Stripped back, the garden reveals its young skeleton, already much fuller than last year’s. I’m rather pleased with its progress; in years to come the shrubs and small trees will fill out and provide more structure through these winter months, but the garden is far from empty. I know that to many, the decaying stems and bare branches appear forlorn at best, but I rather like this wild tangle, and the muted colours reflect the season perfectly, as well as resting the eyes after summer’s riot of colour.
Occasional improbable splashes of colour still turn my head: Clematis Ernest Markham here pushing its last deep red flowers towards the cool blue skies; vivid purple flowers of hardy geraniums remain nonchalant while the pale primroses look perfectly at home amid the frosts.
The kitchen garden is quiet now, chard and pak choi beginning to wilt until only the brassicas continue to stand tall against the onslaughts of the weather.
We have requisitioned a patch of bare earth in the kitchen garden to build an ad-hoc log store, stacking our excess logs on pallets and throwing a (blue!) tarpaulin to keep the worst of the wet off the wood as it seasons. If the recent low temperatures continue, it should not be long before we have made space in the static wood stores to reclaim the ground here.
I think that Cavolo nero, with its riveted leaves, was made for frost; it always looks stunning sprinkled with white, and the savoy cabbages are standing up to the weather too. A fine set of Brussels sprouts look promising for our Christmas dinner – and several meals beyond. I’m pleased with these – one less thing to buy from the farmers’ market in a few weeks’ time.
We must remember to mark the row of parsnips now that the foliage is beginning to die back; last year we had great fun trying to find them in frozen ground, and several escaped us until they began to grow again in the spring.
So November has mostly been a quiet month, although my birthday did not pass unmarked.
We have wrestled with the first cold and flu of the season, managed to get all the spring bulbs and garlic planted – some woefully late – and tidied up the garden gently, leaving most of the ornamental plants to stand through the winter. It’s a delight to watch birds alight on the teasel seed heads for a snack.
With the most pressing garden tasks completed, I’m sure that December will find us curled up beside the fire more than outside, dreaming idly over catalogues and books of plants, already thinking ahead to next year.
Thanks to Helen, the Patient Gardener, for hosting the end of month view.