For the most part it is a very dark, dank, grey and gloomy start to the year – we sit under heavy sullen skies, everywhere is wet, sodden underfoot, and there seems no end to this.
However, renovation work can continue – all of the inscribed stone boat pavers from the Front Garden – Brig, Schooner etc – Catamaran, Billyboy etc. – these sets of pavers are brought in, cleaned and the words freshly repainted. They are then recovered and put back in place until they are all unveiled again in spring.
Other practical tasks include renovatIng the Loo building – dampness comes through the walls here of what was the old stable – these need to be stripped back and repainted along with the floor and all the woodwork – all looks bright and fresh for a new season.
The front gate The Fluted Land – damage has been caused here by water rotting through at a joint on the top cross bar – a weak point – which is where the inscription is – the pieces are glued back on in a makeshift repair which will see us through, but eventually this gate will need entirely renewed and replaced.
In the garden itself the focus is on keeping everything tidy – so begins a sequence of clearing out all the ponds and waterways of winter debris and keeping them running clear – the Temple pond, the Claudi pool and the water courses through the English Parkland get cleaned out of leaves, twigs and silt.
The Middle pond had been giving problems with water escaping from a hole – a regular weak point in the bank – by the wooden aqueduct. This is patched up, but then opens itself further along, is patched again – sealed with mud and packed tight – but the suspicion is that it will find its way out again. There is evidence elsewhere of water voles by the Lower pond, their perfectly engineered holes appearing on the bank. This was a big issue last year where they weakened the bank to such a point that the water leaked under the pathway – it will be interesting if not frustrating to monitor what happens over the coming months.
Other repairs are required to the sodden grass pathways throughout the garden – sections of rubber matting are put in on top of the worst areas by the Claudi pool to try and stabilise and strengthen these sections and allow fresh grass to grow through in the spring. Further sections throughout the garden – particularly the walkways from the bridge That which joins to the bridge lines of foam and through the lane by the Gates and Stiles stones. These areas have just been saturated for months and the grass has become squishy muddy puddles. No amount of drainage can help these areas which are just sitting in water. We need a prolonged dry spell and to try and reduce as much footfall in these areas until the garden reopens.
There are still leaves to be cleared in the Parkland – particularly by the Virgil shadow alder tree which hangs on to its leaves the longest then drops heaps of them along with small twigs and branches. Other areas are tidied along hedge perimeter of the Kailyard behind the sheds, and geraniums are planted here – spread out to add colour to a shady area.
In the greenhouses ox-eye daises are potted on – a never ending supply of these just seems to be never enough, as once they are planted out some do not survive, others highlight further spaces which could be filled out.
Sweet pea seeds are ordered for early sowing – ‘Aphrodite’ will again grace the Kailyard with her heavenly scent.
It has been a strange mix of weather with generally unseasonably mild temperatures pushing spring bulbs and plants on early with snowdrops and aconites bringing sparks of colour to dark patches – and daffodils poking through.
By the end of the month though the temperature drops and the sky clears to a pale blue air. Snow falls, and its soft white muffling layer redefines the shape and presence of forms, objects, hedges and branches.