At this time of year the garden seems to be hanging in suspended animation, hovering somewhere between life and death. Trees are bare, grass is waterlogged and the flowers of summer are a dim and distant memory. But look carefully at the garden because it’s still possible to see special things right in front of our eyes. We get so used to looking at leaden, grey skies and battling through driving rain, that we forget to observe the subtle beauty of winter.
Last week, Jo mentioned the winter aconites that are starting to push through the soil giving little beacons of brightness in the gloomy light. But that’s not that’s all. Hellebores are poised to open, snowdrops are already gleaming ‘persil’ white and the spidery flowers of the witch hazel are tentatively unfurling from their buds. They’re not showy, brash or extrovert but they’re brave and lift the spirit when nothing else has the courage to even peek above the ground. Or what about the beautiful leaves of Arum italicum ‘Pictum’, fresh and glossy with their amazing marbling. Or the unusual and slightly weird staghorn lichen that’s currently bursting forth on the bare branches of the Azalea luteum. The more we look, the more we notice beauty in the ordinary; frost on roses, the first Crocus thomasinianus, a sheep sitting under an oak on a foggy morning, the sharp edges of the yew hedges, the red buds of Paeonia mlokosewitschii or the austere lines of the Lime Walk.
So let’s embrace the ordinary and look for the unexpected. Winter rewards those who take the time to seek out the small and insignificant, showing us that what at first appears to be ordinary is, in fact, quite extraordinary. It may be too much to expect us to enjoy winter but perhaps we can find enough small pleasures to keep us going until Spring.