Mid-December often sees the allotment site under snow or at least coated in frost, but not this year. We wandered around today with camera in hand and we were appreciative of the bright clear blue sky overhead. The midday sun cast long sharp shadows and it had enough strength in it for us to feel its warmth.
Having checked the post box for messages, and left a few magazines in the communal hut for others to enjoy, we started our tour at Wendy’s lovely plot. There is always something of interest to see and new things going on. We were not to be disappointed today. The sun caught the bright fiery colours of the willow hedge surrounding her compost heap.
On an obelisk where the soft bark paths cross the striped flag glowed alongside a sparkling glitterball, while this character decorated her shed door. A cranky old monk? Brother Cadfael perhaps when he was dropped by the BBC.
We next moved to the Autumn Garden and our newly planted section alongside our young fedge. The tree here is a Crataegus prunifolia which gives rich red autumn colour and deep red berries which is underplanted with bulbs. The border is planted up with sedum, asters, ferns, some perennial native flora and small shrubs. The cones and catkins of alders are beginning to get their purple hue. Cotoneaster leaves are as red as their berries.
On many plots old crops sit forgotten in places whilst others await being picked throughout the winter. The sprouts will grace a plot holder’s Christmas dinner spread.
Chard leaves on a sunny day are delightful. The reds, yellows and purples of their leaves and stems glow with the sun behind them.
Further along the borders of the Autumn Garden we passed Trevor’s plot where there is always an interesting development to find. Today we discovered his new shed number. He must have problems remembering his plot number or needs to arrange to visit an optician.
In the final section of the Autumn Garden the grass Calamagrostis acutifolia “Overdam” stand tall and to attention and gentle honey scents flow from the lemon flowered Mahonia.
On the shed roof of Plot 68 the massive scarecrow is looking worse for wear after our recent weather featuring heavy rains and strong winds. In the summer he won our annual scarecrow competition. It is hard to believe how he wowed our visitors on our Open Day.
In the first orchard the last fruit hangs on, a golden crab apple. Fennel is already sporting new foliage on Alan’s plot and the last of the Raspberry fruits sit awaiting a hungry Blackbird. Close by in the first Buddleja Border a Shistsotylus bravely blooms on with an early Primula.
The Globe Artichoke in the second Buddleja Border will soon burst and finches will flock in to feed off them, especially Goldfinches and Linnets.
We then took a detour to see what is happening on our own plot, Number 37. The last of the flowers in our wildflower mini-meadow are bravely hanging on and a few of our parsnips have gone to flower producing chartreuse umbrella heads. A few autumn raspberries provide welcome food for Blackbirds.
We moved on towards our old oak tree past plots where winter grown crops await Christmas dinners in members homes, leeks with their glaucous strappy leaves and sprouts behind netting protected against marauding Wood Pigeons.
This little scarecrow bravely guards overwintering alliums.
The Oak invariably looks wonderfully majestic but on a winter’s afternoon it excels with its long sharp shadows and silhouette of bare branches. In the spring Garden nearby the first bulbs are coming into flower, a pale Muscari, pushing their way through fallen oak leaves.
On Sharon’s plot her frog thermometer shows it is mild for December and near by a lone apple hangs waiting to give sustenance to the Blackbirds.
Glyn’s plot is well covered in a mat of green manures, so no heavy rain is going to leach away the goodness from the soil. Now that is good gardening!
In the Sensory Garden the rose hips sparkle away in the winter sun which glows through the last of the rose bush’s foliage. Grasses here always look good but add extra movement in the gentlest of breezes.
In the big meadow the last of the Red Campion and the Honesty are gamely flowering still. A lone bloom of Rosa Shropshire Lad casts a beautiful fruity scent across the picnic area.
The bunting on Brian’s shed looks faded now but still adds cheer. The sunlight beams through the Dedge and intensifies the flat plate flower heads of the late Achillea.
The Winter Garden is beginning to come into its own with peeling bark, powdery white stems and fluffy grass seed heads.
Moving on into the site extension we find our newest insect hotel still standing after recent strong winds. As usual I have string and my Opinel garden knife in my pocket so tie it back to the fence. The bamboo looks settled in its new home at the end of the proposed Garden of Contemplation. From here we can see the mass of “keys” adorning every branch of our ancient Ash tree.
Our long shadows look out across the site.
In the second orchard the crab apples still have much fruit left on and these give bright patches of colour visible from all over the site.
The stems of the coppiced willows in the Withy Bed shine as they start to show their late winter colour. This is something we are looking forward to. We have 17 different willow here in every colour possible.
We are just beginning to prepare the ground for our new Prairie Garden which we shall make in the new year. This big patch of bare ground promises to become a riot of year round colour. We can’t wait to get started. On nearby plots we spot a patch of another green manure, Grazing Ryegrass and another lone apple on a tree.
On Ian’s plot a big pile of farmyard manure waits the time when he digs it into the soil to add nutrients, humus and structure. It won’t take him long – he is a strong chap.
Returning to the communal hut along the wide path we spot this old beer can acting as a cane top rattling away by the old sweetcorn stalks. On Mandy’s plot this little insect home will be looking after hibernating friendly critters who will emerge in the spring to eat pests such as aphids. Dave’s flags hang sadly atop their poles.
As we returned to the car we noticed the first signs of growth on our spring bulbs. The first leaves of the daffodils have just made their way through the bark mulch. A promise of golden flowers to come. Our wheelbarrows give a big splash of colour in low sunlight.