Friday, January 6, 2012

Treading on my dreams

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven,
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)

I love this poem at any time, but the final line always runs through my mind when I'm gardening at this time of year.
I usually delay the big winter tidy-up until after Christmas, because many of the plants in my garden go on well into December, especially if the weather is mild. The snag with rummaging about in the borders at this time of year is that it is so easy to trample on the new shoots of bulbs such as snowdrops and daffodils. You have to tread carefully, or you will extinguish their dream of blooming in a couple of months' time.
It's been a busy Christmas for me, as you may have noticed from the lack of posts. Apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day, I've been at work most of the time. Coupled with that, my mother - who came to stay with us on Christmas Eve - was ill, and had to be admitted to hospital. She's fine now, I'm pleased to say, but I think both she and I are quite glad to see the back of this Christmas.
So it was with a sigh of pleasure and relief that I stepped outside this morning. It's not too cold here in London - about 9/10C (48/50F), but feeling slightly warmer in the sunshine. A great day to do some gardening.

I always wait until the cannas have been frosted before cutting back their foliage, but as soon as they go over, I am itching to hack off the shroud-like leaves and put the plants away for the rest of the winter. Mine are in pots, so they can go in the garage, which stops them getting too wet and cold.
The red banana below, however, (Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii') will not regenerate, so that's destined for the tip. If you have a greenhouse, you can overwinter them (Will Giles, at The Exotic Garden, uses the Norwich Cathedral greenhouse for his!), but I don't, so I treat them as annuals. They grow so fast in one season, I'd never be able to lift them if they got really big.

Then there's the general herbaceous detritus. This bed below, for example, is full of old crocosmia leaves. I could leave them, but they are flopping all over the evergreen plants, such as the yuccas, so they get pulled out. I could already see next year's shoots starting.

It's a very satisfying feeling, accumulating a heap of garden waste like this. I love jobs that don't involve any analysis or decision-making, just a vague attention to detail in case you cut off a finger.

Had a quick squint at the pond, above, to check that everything was all right, and that the pump was still working. The fish seemed very lively, perhaps because it was a mild sunny day.

And I found this fat little fellow, cosied up amid a cluster of crocosmia corms. This is the caterpillar of the Small White, or Cabbage White butterfly. He's a bit of a pest if you grow cabbages, so it crossed my mind that I should tread on his dreams pdq. But I don't grow cabbages, and the nasturtiums (which I'm guessing attracted his parent) never seem to suffer from caterpillar predation, so I left him to snooze in peace.


Gail said...

Victoria, It looked good before,I am accustomed to lots of browns this time of year, but, it really perked up after your cleanup. Glad you had time to play in the garden, there's nothing like it on a winter's warm day. xogail

About Last Weekend said...

I feel all beautifully fresh just looking at these pictures, must go out there and snip off all the old bits. (Wish I could do the same to myself) Just visited my mother in New Zealand and admiring her cannas as well (though its summer there)

Victoria said...

Gail, you're so right! It was great just to be outside. xx

Jody: Ha! I know that feeling. At this time of year, it's always difficult to envisage the garden looking colourful again. But today, it was quite easy to believe that spring isn't that far away.

Fairegarden said...

It does look very green and lush, especially compared to our more somber tones right now, but I also adore cleaning up outside at this time of year. We can't wait, those bulb heads are pushing up and we don't want to spoil their dreams! So glad your mum is okay.

organicgardendreams said...

Happy New Year to you, Victoria! May your garden flourish in 2012! Sorry to hear that your mother got sick over Christmas, but I am glad that she is OK now, again.
I love the poem by Yeats that you have chosen as an intro to this post! Judging by your photos you got quite a bit of clean-up done in your yard. It made such a difference already. Almost every plant in my garden is screaming for a winter tidying, too, and I would love to do it all at once, but since I am just a regular human being with little time for gardening, I have to be patient and do it step by step, eventually I will get there...

NellJean said...

I don't usually make pics of frost-bitten plants, but you make them look good in photos.

patientgardener said...

it is very satisfying isnt it, ive been doing lots of tidying up. I also found one of those fat green fellas amongst my seedlings in the cold frame so he had to be relocated elsewhere!

petoskystone said...

Glad that your mother is up & about! Also glad the holiday season is over. It's been so warm here, it doesn't seem like winter at all! Waiting for soninlaw to clean up after his dog before i go out tidying the patch. :/

Mark and Gaz said...

It's a satisfying feeling indeed, clearing up the garden of previous summer's growth and making the borders look 'tidier'. Sort of a preparation for spring too, although that's still a good many weeks away, officially anyway.

I totally agree, sometimes it's just nice to do garden jobs that don't involve analysis and decision making. Those are the best sort of garden jobs I think, very relaxing even.

Anna said...

One of my favourite poems. Yeats was one of the two poets of my 'A' level English Literature syllabus many moons ago. Sounds as if you had a satisfying session in the garden to blow away the cobwebs. I have enjoyed your recent editorials - our little outdoor tree was laid low by the gales long before the squirrels could get to the fairy lights. Happy New Year Victoria - may it treat you kindly.

Adventurous Gardens - Ben Candlin said...

Hi Victoria, I've just found your blog. Lovely reading, thank you.

Your garden is looking really good for this time of year. It's amazing what a difference cutting back frosted plants and old Phormium leaves can make! Ben.

Cindy, MCOK said...

I had to enlarge the picture of the cannas ... I thought they were an especially cool garden sculpture! (And I'm wearing my glasses ...!!!"

Happy 2012!

Esther Montgomery said...

Was anxious when I saw the title. Glad that things are easing up a little now, that your mother is better and the world is not quite as traumatic as the words suggested.

Being an untidy sort, I pulled a load of crocosmia out of the ground in the autumn, piled them in a washing basket and left them in the middle of a path - where they are now growing. Determined things!