For a happier winter

Jan 19, 2020

First of all, let me say I think it’s quite common for gardeners in the northern hemisphere not to love winter. The days are short, the evenings are long and spring cannot come soon enough. But last summer brought a lot of sadness for me and whilst traditionally I would lament the end of the bright, warm days I was relieved when the later months’ softer light and cooler air came around. This winter’s credit is the distance it puts between me and that summer, bringing with it a new appreciation.

Never in a million years would I have thought I’d enjoy winter but here it is, a happier time than those before. Being able to see it as an absolutely necessary season means I’ve been able to take part in it rather than just scrunch up my face and wait for it to pass. Here are some seasonal habits helping me keep the winter blues away.

Frosty daphne leaves

Getting outside

It’s cold, it’s cloudy and it’s downright miserable… so get out there! This is what I tell myself when it feels like the least desirable thing to do. Going out for an hour or so to a local park or, even better, the woods is an amazing tonic. Being amongst trees and greenery is proven to positively affect our mental health and for me this is even more true during these months. Often times I get lucky too because the weather here in the UK is so changeable that in the blink of an eye the cloudiest sky can be replaced with the most beautiful sunshine. Then it seems all the more special because it’s rarer and prettier, it just doesn’t feel like this any other time of the year. 

Winter sun shining through trees

Growing food indoors

Growing little pots of delicious new life on the windowsill bridges that gap between the abundance of autumn and the hope of spring. Our options for home grown food are more limited in winter of course but thank goodness there are still herbs, winter salads and sprouting seeds! How pleasing it is to pick fresh leaves all year round. I’m growing basil, parsley and coriander plants as well as alfalfa, chick peas and fenugreek sprouts in the kitchen. Out in the unheated greenhouse I have winter salad leaves and corn salad. The primroses are flowering in the garden now too so I don’t have to be without edible blooms for all that long.

Homegrown sprouts, leaves and edible flowers

Flowering houseplants

Regular houseplants and my beloved baby avocado trees help at this time of year but the ones that really bring joy are those that bloom like amaryllis, Christmas cactus and hyacinth. In fact I realised just recently that a winter tradition I’ve been keeping for a few years now is having a pot of hyacinths growing on my bedside table every January. I wake up to their beautiful scent and it puts me in a good mood even before the day has begun.

Pink hyacinth flowers

Images of nature

At times when we can’t get a fix of the real thing, filling our eyes with images of sunshine, flowers and beautiful scenery can help lift our spirits. Sometimes on dark mornings when I’m awake early before work, too early for my eyes to cope with reading a book and too early to hear about the world’s news just yet I live vicariously through Instagrammers who garden in or travel to stunning places. A few of my favourites are Plantfolk, Emilie Ristevski, Deanna from Homestead and Chill and Maria from Northern Heart (images below copyrighted respectively).

Favourite Instagram accounts - plantfolk, helloemilie, deannacat3, mynorthernheart

Embracing the cosy

The key for me in enjoying our wintertime is acceptance. It’s when many of our plants become dormant, animals hibernate and slow down and I think it’s OK to tune into that tempo and slow down too. Life is hectic enough most of the time with work and other commitments so I’m embracing the cosy evenings with candles, blankets, tea, good books and movies. This is the best time to browse seed catalogues and dream of the spring too. I’m so grateful to have a warm and comfortable home to do this.

Books, blankets and tea

Perhaps winter is already your favourite time of year? If it is I’d love to hear about it or if you you have any tips to manage the winter blues please share them.