Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of winter. I am not one of those people who prefers chilly walks wrapped up in woolly layers over a dreamy summer stroll and I definitely do not like the dark ‘cosy’ evenings. I can be charmed by the sparkle of the first good frost or snow but the novelty wears off pretty quickly. What can I say? I can’t help it. I was born right in the middle of the hottest UK summer on record and I’m sure that became embedded in my DNA somehow.
Having said all that I am tentatively announcing that this winter at The Flower Deli has been pleasant and in some parts downright lovely. The months of December, January and February can be quite busy in the garden, if the weather is kind and it certainly was mild in December and the New Year. I don’t remember seeing so many summer plants still in flower at that time! I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and spend time with some fabulous folks and fellow horticulturalists. There’s nothing like being inspired by your tribe.
What’s been happening this winter?
I thought it might be nice to share some of the things I’ve been up to as it might not be quite as obvious what happens around here during winter time.
Meeting new people
In early December I had two really interesting meetings, the first was with Melisa the Head Gardener at the Walled Garden at Beeston Fields. I have supplied The Walled Garden with my edible flowers previously and now Melisa is planning to grow her own for weddings and other events. So, she got in touch to ask me to come and have a chat, have a look at the growing space and share what I know. I have to say, I loved geeking-out with Melisa about flowers. She gave me a tour of the garden and we talked about types of edible flowers to grow, when, how and where. I can’t wait to go back in the spring to see the progress she’s made and the edible flowers plot full of new plants.
My second meeting was with Sam from a new organisation called Roots Out. This is a community growing project based on an allotment site in Nottingham city. Roots Out will provide opportunities for gardeners of all ages to grow and sell food locally. The aim is to connect urban farmers with each other and nature and to promote learning, personal growth and emotional wellbeing, as well as produce nutritious food of course. I have a real interest in understanding the beneficial effects of working in the natural environment and so I was keen to learn all about Sam’s plans and share ideas. Sam wants to include edible flowers with the food they grow at the allotment, so I will be helping out there in the spring. I think it will be good for me too!
Joining new ventures
Social & Therapeutic Horticulture – In the New Year, before the normal routine of work started up again I spent some time reading and learning about Social & Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) via Thrive. Thrive is a UK charity which specialises in STH, they provide programmes for client gardeners who have disabilities, ill health, are isolated or vulnerable. They also provide training and courses for those wanting to become practitioners as well as professional development for those already qualified. I have taken an initial online course, will definitely be doing more and will share my progress here.
Nottingham Seed Sovereignty – This is really exciting and is just in the early stages but I am so on board! Set up by Xanthea of Honeybee Farmacy in collaboration with The Urban Worm, The Down to Earth Project and other groups Nottingham Seed Sovereignty is about sharing knowledge of saving and preserving seeds and creating a local seed library for community use. The reason I’m so excited about this is that this is real action against monopolisation of seeds and our food by the massive corporations creating pesticide and fertilizer reliant crops and building our own strong seed heritage. If you’re interested to learn more, check out the resources at Nottingham Seed Sovereignty on Facebook . I’ll share more once the project is underway too.
Nottingham Organic Gardeners – Firstly I have renewed my membership with Nottingham Organic Gardeners this year (hoorah!) and I’ve been getting involved in their activities. A few weeks ago I went along to a composting workshop to refresh what I knew and pick up some new tips. Then last weekend I helped out with setting up for the event of the year (it seriously is) – NOGs Annual Potato Day, which was as lively and enjoyable as always. You have to experience it to describe it! I can honestly say that the NOGs folks are absolutely lovely and I really do recommend this group to any gardener wanting to learn more about organic growing and just get involved with a fun bunch who like a laugh. They have a great programme of events lined up this year, especially the talk by Charles Dowding in March. All I can say is, check them out, go along.
Getting off to a good start – I had some of December and all of Christmas away from the garden, I always need to have a little break after the busy year. I started the New Year in the garden on the first day and from then got cracking on with lots of jobs, setting garlic, sowing chillies potting on pansies, splitting primroses, cleaning the glasshouse, cleaning pots, making repairs, moving things around and tidying up.
No-dig gardening – This year I’m employing the no-dig methods that Charles Dowding is so well known for. I’ve also been laying cardboard and compost on the beds and cutting annuals like borage rather than pulling them out of the soil. This way of doing things makes so much more sense than digging and disturbing the soil and the life within, especially in winter.
Composting – As well as my composting worms I have brought home composting back to The Flower Deli garden. This might seem like a small thing but I did get quite excited about my beautiful new wood compost bin because it was something I gave up when I dedicated every square centimetre of the garden to edible flowers. Bringing the composting back will be more beneficial for the flowers, for me and for the planet.
Watching, reading, enjoying
Time outside in the garden is of course much more limited in these cold, short days and so us plant folk have to get our fix in other ways…
Watching & reading
- The Instagram stories of Deanna, a self-confessed plant-chicken-cat-lady who has the most stunning garden in central California in the US. Deanna’s videos take me to a sunny, chilled-out place with good music and good homegrown food. To the delight of Deanna’s followers she has just launched a blog too called Homestead and Chill.
- Plants are Magic magazine by Rebecca Desnos. I just bought all three volumes in hard copy even though I had the digital versions. Yes, I love them that much.
- Lots of Charles Dowding YouTube videos. This was pure coincidence with the planned NOGs talk in March. Lucky!
- The Seeds of Freedom documentary. Watch this and try not to get fired up about seed heritage, GM and Monsanto amongst other things. I honestly think everyone should see this film.
- Pressing flowers – I used to do this all the time when I was a kid. I would press the flower and draw a picture of it and put them together in a little card. This time I’m pressing flowers as a record of what is in bloom at different times of the year. Having fuchsia still in full flower on New Year’s Day prompted me because I couldn’t remember it happening before (it may have done) and it seemed very strange. I feel the need to document these strange times.
- Planning for the coming year – Because I’m going to be growing more than edible flowers this year I’m taking the time to check out seed catalogues online, planning what to sow and grow and thinking about permaculture with these additional plants in mind. One new plant I am definitely growing for myself this year is hops.
Still lots of to do
February has brought the coldest weather to Nottingham so far, along with tiny sprinkles of the first snow. As we’re half way between winter solstice and spring equinox that seems quite appropriate.
The work and activities of winter are definitely not over, there’s still a lot to do. In fact I’ve just written myself a list of jobs to complete before the busy time of spring sowing and potting-on begins. Despite the cold weather there are signs everywhere of new life and new shoots popping up. Winter hasn’t been so bad after all and the warmer, lighter days will soon be here.