Plan for next year

It is the time of year when bright colour drains out of the landscape and the garden.The frosts have bleached the last of my single pink chrysanthemums to grey rags. The tiny pings of colour on the winter jasmine and the last of the Bonica roses are nothing compared to the blaze of dahlias only a month ago.

We must appreciate the now dominant forms of evergreens and subtle colours of twigs and bark – the sight of Salix Britzensis, a red twigged willow, lit by a low sun, against a dark thundery sky, remains seared on my memory. Days of dull skies, drizzle, wind and mud trailing through the house because Someone Didn’t Take Her Boots Off Again are less memorable.

This is a great time of year to assess your garden. If you get the form right, colour will follow. Here is a method I use. Take photographs of the main views of your garden, to and from the entrances and view from the kitchen sink at the very least. Edit your photos, save them as black and white images and increase the exposure so your photograph is ghostly grey. Colour no longer distracts you and you will save a fortune in green ink. Print them and then draw on what you cannot change, such as the view over the fence, and then the new elements you would like to see with a pencil. Go over the result with a Sharpie pen.

You don’t need to be an artist to make this work. A lollipop for a tree half way down the garden hides the telegraph pole at the end. A series of vertical dashes represents the miscanthus border that could hide the children’s trampoline. We planted this – it was great fun to see the children bouncing into view above the grasses like dancing Tutsi warriors.

Shrubs drawn like fuzzy ovals now hide the wheelie bin. Horizontal caterpillar shapes represent the mats of geraniums and alchemilla mollis sprawling across the paving edges.  A circle over a square shows you what a well-placed pot would look like in a strategic place. A pair either side of the front door…can you see what it is yet?

It is shocking how so many tatty features in our gardens we learn to ignore in life, yet in a photo, they jump out at us. I was blissfully unaware when potting up wallflowers and bulbs that the yard was a shambles of pots, compost bags, empty packets, buckets of plants and pots of dying petunias and so on until I saw it in a photograph. I have had a tidy up since. I daresay I should repeat this exercise with the bedroom floor and the inner recesses of the saucepan cupboard but I think I shall have a sit down and a mug of tea instead. The denial is total.