January: New Year, new eyes.

One of the good things about slowing down after Christmas is the opportunity to look at things properly. That may sound strange. The truth is that when I am in a hurry with a head full of “to-do” lists, it is very hard to actually take in any of the beauty around me.

I don’t see, or behold the vibrant colours of the willow stems (Salix). I miss the lines the extraordinary shades and lines in the bark of the Acers I pass. I don’t lean into the scent of the winter-flowering Viburnums as I walk past them. I am blind to the silhouettes in the evening light, blind to the shades and shifting colours.

So, instead of writing out a list of chores to do this month I would like to make a simple suggestion - and it is this: go into the garden or the countryside to collect plant material to make a centrepiece for a table or sideboard.

What!” I hear you cry. “I have never done that before”. Well, without wishing to be rude - that is the point. By being intentional, you will start looking, start seeing, start beholding. Even if the result is not exactly what you hoped for, you will have gone through a process looking at plants in a new way, with new eyes.

The next step is to decide how large you want your arrangement to be. It may be a just a small milk jug. On a larger scale, whilst stems of dogwood and willow make a good backdrop, ivy will tumble over nicely at the front of your container. Seek out the plants, colours and scents accessible to you for the centrepiece.

Try to achieve a composition of either complimentary colours or strongly contrasting ones. Don’t be afraid to play with the shapes and colours. If your courage fails, then just buy a Hyacinth for indoors and watch the effect the scent has in the coming weeks.

Adding a bit of bubbly water will prolong the life of your plant arrangement (or adding champagne if you are in HELLO magazine).

If plant material is scarce then I’m sure Santa would approve if you went to the garden centre to buy some winter favourites such as witch hazel (Hamamelis), winter box (Sarcococca) or some Hellebores. If planted correctly, you will enjoy them in years to come. Frankly, even if you plant them incorrectly, you will probably enjoy them for years to come too.

A wise old man once wrote: “Every day we are being offered a gift. Every day we are being offered a surprise: it is a bit like an apple being tossed in our direction. The question is this: are our hands open to receive that gift or are we clinging on to something from the past so hard that we cannot be open to receive anything new?”

Good point. I had better start practicing what I am preaching.

Wishing you very many happy and satisfying hours in the garden in 2019!

P.s. (See December’s garden tips for your chores: they apply equally for this month.)