The last rose, a final flowering hollyhock, these are the little treats that the end of the year throws up, but for the most part December is the month when the garden is finally reduced to its bare bones. This can be dispiriting, particularly when it is accompanied by low light levels and cold, damp days. But it can also be exciting, a time to use your imagination to picture what wonders might be achieved in the year to come.
In the garden at Charleston this week, head gardener Fiona and I were clearing a corner of a bed, making way for the new. We took out Japanese anemones, ornamental onions and celandine which had spread into the border, giving Iris sibirica and Hemerocallis room to breathe. We also removed a giant clump of Euphorbia which was not in keeping with the 1930s and 40s look that Fiona is aiming for – and were surprised by how deep and thickly the roots had spread. There is something very satisfying about tidying up in this fashion.
The vegetable garden at Charleston has also been reduced to its bare bones and reorganised, with the help of all of the volunteers (I am looking forward to meeting the others at Christmas drinks next week). The raised beds have been removed and the beds doubled in size. By next summer these empty veg beds will no doubt be brimming with beautiful edibles.
Fiona has kindly given me three large Salvias (I think they are Amistad), which are also anachronistic to the heyday of the garden at Charleston in the decades leading up to and immediately following the Second World War. They are perfect for my new prairie bed and I quickly dug them in this morning. I will let their purple flowers sing for a little longer before cutting them back hard to promote next year’s growth.