'Two for the price of one'

It’s been absolutely fabulous for flowers, fruits, berries and autumn colour this year and my garden like so many others has been lush and glorious. As we come to the end of another year I have no complaints, even the slugs struggled to make an impact on  the abundant growth.
But that’s all over now, I’ve picked up the last of the perennial leaves left soft and mushy by the early frost and although the reliable grass stems are still holding their own, the tree branches are bare and the stark bones of my garden are revealed again.

As in every other winter for as long as I can remember, I find that I’ve forgotten what summer looked like. It’s the same with the landscape around me, I look up at the hills and just can’t imagine them green. In high summer it’s exactly the opposite, I can’t remember what winter looked like!

I don’t know if it’s just me or if we all feel that way as the seasons make such a dramatic impact on our surroundings.
Apart from the worry of impending older age and memory loss, this does have a positive side in that the view from my window is so different from six months ago that I feel as if I have two gardens for the price of one.
There are a few stalwart evergreens standing resolute in the face of seasonal change but apart from these if I compare summer and winter photographs the difference is remarkable.

Last year’s ice and snow were magical, especially at night when the garden lights made the frosty branches sparkle like tinsel dusted Christmas cards, but if this year we miss out on the arctic conditions then even dismal grey days will have their moments.
I used the sloes from the hedge to make slow gin so that will give me a warming reminder of better days and there is still some of my grape jelly from the vine outside the kitchen door. I have just a few quinces left, their faint but evocative scent all but gone now and a dwindling supply of little pumpkins and squashes which keep so well and look like a photograph from ‘Country Living’ sitting in the bowl of some old scales in the kitchen. There’s just a hint of loss with the last of the summer harvest though, so if it’s a bit of a lift I’m after, the birds do it for me.

The vibrant wings of the goldfinches, great tits and siskins flitting to and from the bird feeders, the sudden flash of the sparrow hawk as he darts through to catch a blue tit, the cheery robin almost always present and if we’re really lucky redwings and fieldfares might briefly join their blackbird and thrush relatives to strip the sloe and hawthorn branches.
Provide for the birds and even after the Christmas spirit has long evaporated you only have to look outside for a refreshing dose of winter cheer.