Dealing with the Damp

Posted in All posts, January, on

A seemingly endless wet and bitter damp consumes our Western hemisphere at this time of year. The festive season ends and then we have these 2 or 3 months where many of us who long for colour and life instead face a bit of a blackout, or at least perhaps that's how it seems sometimes ...

Life is beginning to emerge though. To my delight, a handful of hopefully deep-burgundy ranunculus bulbs have risen ahead of everything else, with clusters of watercress like leaves almost 2 inches tall.

The puffin-beak-like tips of Woodstock hyacinths, one of our favourite and trusted spring staples, have also begun to peek out from their beds of soil. 

Along a stretch of a nearby road is an early display of the always welcome and jolly lambs tails, also known as Corylus avellana (hazel). Just a few trimmed stems of these look nice in a vase.

Most blooms you buy now are grown halfway around the world, so try to buy from independent florists to ease this guilt! If you planned ahead then you should have lots of forced bulbs around the place now or you can find them for reasonable prices in nurseries or as cut blooms.

For Christmas, I bought myself some bunches of Anemone coronaria in the brightest of British red and royal blue. They did not last long, but looked gorgeous, and were worth every penny. I chucked the fading blooms out onto frosted snow once they began to fade, and the white backdrop made them look incredibly glamourous, even in death.

To beat the depressional damp, I enlist in good books, candles and cut blooms.

It is the season where books are more-than-ever cherished friends, so here are my top favourites that I have currently festooned around, giving much needed comfort, colour, knowledge and inspiration.

  1.  The Bold and Brilliant Garden Sarah Raven. My absolute bible when it comes to what I want my garden to look like. Snuggle up with this on the sofa – it's a little large for bedtime reading, but by all means do try and you'll feel like you've wandered into a wonderland oasis of a gardening pallette and style that is the trademark of Sarah Raven's creation at Perch Hill. The other must have book of Sarah's is her huge hardcover Wild Flowers which is a glorious definitive tribute and guide to our British wild flora. It will make you long for summer walks and holidays as she and photographer Jonathan Buckley went to each end of the British Isles seeking our much forgotten wild flowers.
  2. Royal Horticultural Society Simple Steps to Success range. These are brilliant little informative guides that will prove an aid to the novice and experienced alike. They are visual as well as informative, with useful step-by-step guides. The most useful by far have to be the ones on pruning and pests.
  3. Bulb, Anna Pavord. This big, impressive showpiece of a book must be the most comprehensive written one of bulb varieties, covering them all from snowdrops to asiatic lilies with brilliant botanical descriptions of their characteristics, qualities and needs within the garden. The photos are a feast for the eyes too, my favourite being of the snake head fritillary meadow at Magdalen College in Oxford. The bulbs are listed in alphabetical order, so it's easy to find your subject. Anna Pavord also wrote the acclaimed book The Tulip which tells the history of this beloved, and now taken for granted, bulb in a thrilling style.
  4. Poultry for Anyone, Victoria Roberts. Written by a vet and club secretary to many of our most loved pure breed poultry breeds. This beautiful hardback book, dedicated to showcasing the pure breeds of chickens, I could not be without. From Derbyshire Redcaps and Appenzellers to Mille Fleur Bantams, each has its own devoted pages that describe the breeds history, qualities, habits and keeping. It will help anyone decide which hen would be ideal for their needs and location, from small terraced gardens to rural, roomy orchards. There is also a sister book to this called Ducks, Geese and Turkeys for Anyone, which is equally tempting.
  5. The Garden at Chatsworth, Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire. Written by the late divine and much missed Deborah Devonshire, the 11th Duchess of Devonshire. This book depicts and charts the history of one of Britain's most loved and cherished gardens that are to be found at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The 11th Duke and Duchess Andrew and Deborah arrived at Chatsworth after paying off a maze of death duties as a young family, and made Chatsworth into what it is today; a major undertaking that was 'great fun'. This is a beautiful book written by the insider's eye that was Deborah's, who is credited with saving the whole estate. The photos by Gary Rodgers are also breathtaking and complement the text. The Emperor Fountain's mechanics, the plodding of her beloved Buff Cochin chickens, and the pavilion garden's parade of summer lupins – all are described with great, unique enthusiasm and love. Its sister book The House, also written by Her Grace, showcases the Internal aspects of Chatsworth and is also a must.

Thanks for reading,