A garden I know so well, from a different season…and here it was, dressed up in its winter clothing. There’s something eerily magical about a sleeping garden in mid winter; you can almost sense all that latent energy pulled deep into the earth through roots and tucked-away shoots so that walking along a mossy path feels like tip-toeing through Nature’s dormitory.
Still, all the birds are busy, creating one kerfuffle after another as they seek food in the hedgerows, and the borders are far from bare…just greener, lusher somehow; there’s a moist fecundity to everything as foliage mulches back down into the earth and becomes next year’s potential. A shrill robin turns a tune as you round a corner and an absence of other visitors draws all focus to the sound of gravel crunched underfoot and the drip of water…somewhere.
There’s a spaciousness to it all; slate-coloured skies seem less busy and much further pulled-back than those full of puffy clouds suspended behind the outlines of summer trees and topiary punctuated by so much bare earth act like the picture frames to a series of canvases not yet painted.
Then there’s a thrill to it, something that gets the heart pattering as though just walking there is like being party to some kind of intrigue; a world few others bother to venture into, your very own secret garden tucked behind high walls.
More seasonal, somehow, than any amount of shopping arcades festooned with artificial foliage, there’s something ‘pure December’ about such a stroll in the week before the winter solstice and this one set my heart alight with festive cheer and a longing to warm my toes by a fire, to fill my room with candles and cosy down beneath rugs, as the finale to a magical day.
Garden visited: West Green, near Hartley Wintney, Hampshire (now closed for the season but there are various gardens open during the Christmas holiday, see the National Trust – or your local equivalent – for ideas).