Happy Christmas

As we all retreat indoors, ready to spend a few days away from the garden it is comforting to know that everything has been left neat and tidy and the plants that need a bit of extra TLC at this time of year and all safely tucked up somewhere. Our gardeners’ shelter comes in very handy for those plants that don’t mind the winter cold but really resent getting too wet.

Dear Myrtle (Myrtus communis) has the extra cosiness of a layer of hessian and bubble wrap.

One of the winter jobs is to remove the tender bedding plants from containers and replace them with a winter display instead. Well, having left it a bit late to plant anything new in the oak barrel planters by the tea-room we settled for a couple of seasonal oblesiks instead.

As we go into the coldest part of the year and the shortest days I always watch with added admiration as the birds busily flock to the bird feeders in a heroic effort to keep warm and maintain their energy levels through winter. No sitting by the fireside with a glass of ginger wine for them! And one of the birds we are very likely to see at this time of year and one that is a constant companion of the winter gardener is the much loved Robin (Erithacus rubecula). It surprised me to learn that the robin is part of the Thrush family, closely related to the Nightingale, Redstart, Blackbird and Fieldfare. Also, it is the only bird in this country that you are likely to hear singing at night in winter time. The nightingale also has a reputation for nocturnal singing but this is a summer visitor so if you are lying awake at night this Christmas and hear bird song, it is most likely the robin.

I wonder how many of you have had cards like this one this year?

The robin first became a popular feature of Christmas cards when the fashion of sending cards through the post took off in the 1860’s. Early examples often portrayed the robin with a letter held in its beak possibly associating the red breast feathers with the bright red uniform of the Victorian postman. But its reputation as a bird of winter cheer long pre-dates the 1860’s and its association with Christmas might even have pagan roots along with many of our other Christmas traditionjs. Whatever its origin the splash of bright red colour on the robin’s breast, and  the holly berries, is a welcome hint of winter cheer in an otherwise dreary winter scene.

There is plenty in the winter scene at Cressing Temple that is far from dreary and there is nothing I like better than arriving for work on a cold, frosty morning and admiring some of the most beautiful natural images of the year.

As with all seasons in the garden, winter is a time to look ahead and plan for what is to come next, and with this in mind work has continued in the community garden with further development of the no-dig bed area. Thanks to a surplus of straw from Spooky Fun and yet more from our visitation from Rudolf for the Christmas Grotto, the whole area has had a generous addition, which will slowly rot down over the winter and become incorporated with the compost and manure that has also been applied this autumn.

The plan for 2019 is to plant the extended section with pumpkins and gourds, which did so well on this patch in 2018, and use the remaining space for the start of soft fruit garden. the posts and wire being erected here are for a thornless blackberry, in front of which have been planted autumn fruiting raspberries, gooseberry bushes and some strawberry runners from our existing plants. We are looking forward to offering this fresh berry fruit along with all the other produce next year and with the price of such things being so high in the shops we would expect them to be popular.

The news of our Heritage Lottery project is that the arbour rebuild is finished and looks very splendid indeed. Once the weather has done its business of blending in the new timber and our roses have done their business of scrambling over their new structure, it will take on the look of something that has always been there and we will have the added confidence that nothing is going to drop off unexpectedly and know it will stand for many years as one of the focal points of the garden and something to be admired and enjoyed by all our visitors.

To mark the completion of this part of the project, there is to be a free lecture for anyone interested in hearing more about its construction. this will be given by Joe Bispham at 1.30 on 18th January in the conference room at Cressing Temple.

Anyone interested in coming along can find out more details by looking at the  website for the Traditional Building Skills courses offered by Essex County Council.

If you would like to attend this free lecture please phone 0333 013 2738 or email traditional.buildingskills@essex.gov.uk.

Of course we mustn’t forget how this has all been possible, thanks to the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

While on the subject of celebrations, the volunteers celebrated the end of the year in time honoured fashion with a morning of willow weaving followed by a Christmas party. There were  some creative 3D reindeer….

A variety of Christmas trees….

And a few festive stars.

It all took some serious concentration at times but was enjoyed by all I hope.

For the Christmas party we had the use of the farmhouse kitchen which was far warmer than the garden and we managed to fill it to bursting, with people and food!

It was a very jolly occasion, a chance to chat to people you don’t always see, wish each other complements of the season and round off the end of the year in the company of Friends.

I like this time of year for the chance to reflect back over the past 12 months and remember all the good times and the many things that have been achieved. I feel particularly fortunate to be surrounded by such a supportive and enthusiastic group of helpers and would like to thank you all, wholeheartedly, for everything you do for Cressing Temple and the gardens. So many of you give your time, quietly, reliably with the minimum of fuss or need for recognition and it is this steady, regular commitment that makes such a difference and is truly appreciated.  It is quite amazing how much time is given voluntarily by so many people who care about Cressing Temple and the community created there. Although it is sometimes hard to measure these things objectively, the results of your hard work show: in the look of the gardens, the positive comments of visitors and the reputation of Cressing Temple as such a special place to be part of.

Thanks to you all, have a well deserved rest over Christmas and the New Year and I will see you all in 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

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