Saturday, December 25, 2010

A very happy Christmas to everyone

Life's been very busy in the run-up to Christmas - work, snow, work, more snow - so I'm truly sorry I haven't had time to reply to all your lovely comments and Christmas wishes. This is just to say that I really, really do appreciate them ...

and to wish you a very


Saturday, December 18, 2010

In the bleak midwinter...

Two hours of snow this morning has put an end to this afternoon's carol service and two drinks parties this evening. I hate snow!
I'm playing the piano at a neighbour's carol party tomorrow evening, so in between practising "In The Bleak Midwinter" and "Winter Wonderland" in seven different keys (to accommodate people who can't sing high/low), I thought I'd have a little carol posting of my own.

7.45am. Snow had fallen ...

10.30am Snow on snow ...

11.30am Snow on snow... (especially on the bamboo)

7.45am. Oh Christmas tree ...

11am. Oh, Christmas tree?

When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. The footsteps are not those of Good King Wenceslas, however, but my daughter, who took this picture from the back of the garden. Everything is so laden down with snow, you can hardly see the house.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The winter garden

There's a simplicity about gardens in winter that I find very pleasing. It's a sort of pared-down beauty that provides a very tranquil contrast to the flashy glamour of summer.
I love my garden when it's at full throttle in July and August, but I also love it now, when everything is cut back and tidied away. I love the clean lines and empty pots and stark branches.
If you think I'm beginning to turn into a neatnik, you'd be absolutely right. The other day, I was even thinking of edging the lawn to give it that final crisp and even finish. Sanity prevailed, however.
Inside the house, practically every surface is smothered in throws and cushions and all the paraphernalia designed to make the job of getting warm, snuggling up and falling asleep as easy as possible. In the garden, though, everything is stark and swept.
This is in huge contrast to midsummer, when it is the house that is cool and minimalist and the garden that is burgeoning with foliage and flowers, and cushions and candles.
All the cannas, which until what seems like five minutes ago were happily flowering away, have a snug new winter home in the shed. The pond has been dredged of dead leaves. The containers have been emptied of frost-mushed nasturtiums.
I don't know where I found the time to do it, but I'm glad I did, because it was very therapeutic. I also found the time to write a comment piece for today's paper about Gardeners' World. I hesitate to give you the link, because I've bored you all rigid with my views on the subject many times before, both here on this blog and on other people's blogs. But just in case you want to read it, go here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The return of the Lord of Cord

I'm not sure whether this means the BBC is listening to viewers or not...
Many, many thanks to Arabella Sock and The Inelegant Gardener, who have already done full artistic justice to this story.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It never snows in London in November ...

... and I never thought I'd have a snowball in hell's chance of winning a Garden Media Guild award.
Yet here I am, with three inches of snow in Wandsworth, and a framed certificate on the wall that tells me I am the Garden Media Guild Journalist of the Year 2010. Unbelievable.
The Garden Media Guild describes its awards as the "Oscars" of the UK garden media world. Their annual lunch is a very glitzy affair, in gardening terms, where all the starry writers and broadcasters get together with the rest of the industry at The Brewery, which itself is an award-winning venue in the City.
I'd been invited by lovely Martyn Cox to sit at his table, which was described by James Alexander-Sinclair as the "Billy No-Mates" table. In other words, none of us had managed to schmooze an invitation from one of the big horticultural trade companies, which meant we had to pay for our own tickets.
Well, all I can say is that it was a small (well, perhaps not that small) price to pay for a very entertaining lunch. On the table were Laetitia Maklouf, Michelle Wheeler, Dawn Isaac, Mark Diacono, Michelle Chapman, garden writer and editor Tiffany Daneff, writer Alex Mitchell, Amateur Gardening news editor Marc Rosenberg, and garden photographer Rachel Warne.
There was a lot of giggling, a lot of gossiping, and a lot of cheering and whooping once the awards started.
We may have been "Billy No-Mates" but we were certainly not "Billy No-Awards". No fewer than four of us won awards - Marc (News Story of the Year), Mark (Columnist of the Year), Dawn (New Talent) and myself. Naturally, there were huge cheers for other friends who won, who included Lia Leendertz for her blog, Midnight Brambling, Anne Wareham, for her website Thinkingardens and Matthew Wilson for his TV series, Landscape Man.
So, a great day. In fact, so great a day that I sort of seized up with shock and while everyone else waltzed off to the pub, I went home and had a cup of tea.
I know that sounds pathetic, but here's the thing: I write about gardening because it's a passion and I want to share that passion with everyone else. As a mainstream news journalist who works full-time for a national newspaper, I'm in a very good position to get my stories into the main body of the paper rather than be restricted to a section or a weekly supplement.
I'm very grateful to The Independent for giving me the space to explore stories or issues I think are interesting not only to the gardening community but to the public at large. The idea that I might get an award for doing that is ... well, it's unbelievable.
Thank you very much to the Garden Media Guild and to everyone else who made yesterday so much fun.