Seeing the gardener through the dark months ahead

Circa three million people took up gardening during the past troublesome 18 months, and in the words of Gertrude Jekyll: “The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies.”

Saturday, 9th October 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 10th October 2021, 8:48 am
Our apple harvest. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

There will, of course, be times of disappointment that test resolve but they’re far outweighed by the sense of achievement that gardening activities bring.

So, you’re new to the scene, still full of the joys of summer, when a period with a few negatives appears on the horizon and threatens to upset the apple cart. Shorter days, lower temperatures, cold, wet and windy, worst of all, frost.

Favourite TV programmes, such as Gardeners’ World, taking a break until spring and contact with fellow gardeners decreasing. These things could lead new recruits into seeing gardening as a two-season hobby. So, what activities are relevant to keeping-in-touch for dark months ahead? Ask a seasoned gardener!

When weather allows I’m out pruning relevant shrubs and fruit trees/bushes, digging, weeding, repositioning some plants and introducing newcomers to the garden. There is always a modest construction project under way, and time is found to admire the bark, leaves and blooms of woody perennials in their winter grandeur.

Regular visits to the local garden centre and gardens that remain open to the public can be so uplifting and informative. Apart from the welcome displays and refreshments they offer, there’s the possibility of a chance meeting with fellow enthusiasts.

From the comfort of your own home, enjoy the online media connection through virtual reality tours of gardens anywhere in the world. Or listen to podcasts on an assortment of sites. A local example is The Nature Garden on Twitter, featuring Carl Stiansen (host), Steve Lowe (Northumberland Rivers Trust), Tom Cadwallender (British Trust for Ornithology) and yours truly (gardening).

At the very least, surround yourself with plant catalogues from the top nurseries. Many of the fruit, vegetable, and flower suppliers’ phone numbers/addresses can be found in gardening magazines and the outlay is minimal, often the price of return postage.

A cut-price annual subscription offer, to the magazine of your choice



Personal contact and exchange of experiences with fellow enthusiasts is the most natural route to success for would-be or experienced gardeners. And we’ve missed it in recent times. However, there was joy all round last Tuesday evening when Alnwick Garden Club met for the first time in 18 months or so in The Alnwick Garden Pavilion.

We’d remained in touch as a committee through occasional online meetings but had no idea how our 60 members would respond to the invitation: An AGM with social distancing of chairs, hand sanitiser available, masks optional, followed by power-point presentation.

We’d have settled for 20 turning up to make the AGM quorate but happily 30 came and I was able to show a few short video clips of home-based gardening from the past year. Emboldened by this meeting, we plan to go again the last Tuesday in October, depending on the pandemic situation.

Alnwick Garden Club was formed in 1960 by Jo Smith, and began with a simple format, a guest speaker plus ‘magic lantern’ into which individual slides were loaded, occasionally upside down. The technology has changed to a slick power-point presentation but we’re back to the solitary speaker. In between, we had a marvellous period when a team of local knowledgeable gardeners were given 15 minutes each to share their topical information with us.

The late Gerry Stanners, George Avery and Alf Muckle were tops in vegetable and cut flower production. David Parker was and remains a top all-round gardener who always had something innovative to offer for each session; Jimmy Givens simply brilliant and still gardens in the shadow of Cheviot. They loved the new (naughty) joke he’d offer at the end of each performance and booed when I waved a red card which he always ignored!