Here Be Dragons (And Other Reasons Not To Tidy)

I’m starting to feel the urge to get outside and tidy up my garden. There’s a creeping temptation at this time of year to start cutting back and preparing for new growth. Crocosmia clumps look awful, brown and floppy. There are ugly, black, rotted acanthus leaves, and flat ferns. Honesty seedheads are shredded. And there are dead leaves and fallen branches everywhere.

But I’m going to resist tidying up for a while because it’s still too early and too cold. Instead, I’m going to make do with a daily walk around my garden with a cup of coffee. I’m going to take my time, really looking at my plants, and observing the changes as we go into next month.

It can be quite pleasing to see all the mess in the borders, if just you imagine the happy bugs and grubs that are sleeping the winter away in hollow stems and decaying matter. These crazy-looking critters will be your friends when the garden wakes up again next month. Ground beetles will emerge and start eating the baby slugs that haven’t been killed off by the frosts. Pollinators that are hiding now will soon be busily flitting around the early flowers on the pulmonarias, hellebores and daffodils.

For now, let things be. Enjoy the shiny, evergreen foliage of skimmias and hollies, the colourful stems of willows and cornus, and the still standing, brown skeletons of asters and sedums. And, if you have slightly bonkers kids, like mine, you may come across some entertaining surprises as you potter about… This morning, I discovered a three-headed dragon in a hanging basket!

So, I urge you to put down those secateurs and spades. Pick up a crochet needle, or garden magazine or book, or whatever floats your boat in winter, and hold back the urge to tidy. Your garden will be much better for it, and you’ll keep nice and warm indoors.