So another year has nearly passed us by, Christmas is just around the corner, and the weather has turned decidedly wet and miserable. With my Christmas shopping done, and a muddy allotment doing very little to entice me, there’s a lull which I’m happily filling with my favourite type of gardening … the gardening of the imagination. If yours is anything like mine, it’s vast and vivid, and knows no limits. It’s the type of gardening that doesn’t involve weeds or pests, where everything grows just perfectly, and the crops you harvest look exactly like the photos in the catalogue. In this garden it rains overnight just at the right amount, and then the sun shines brightly, bringing all the bees and butterflies to the plot, who happily skip about as I wonder around in a floaty dress with a basket and secateurs. There’s no mud clogging my boots, no sodden gardening gloves and freezing fingers, and on the flip side, no sweating buckets in blistering heat while I lug a hefty watering can around. No gale force winds to blow the dahlias horizontal and brazenly whip the netting off the brassicas. No slugs to demolish the tender seedlings or black fly being farmed on my broad beans. Not a bit of rust on the garlic, no mildew on the courgettes. The carrots pull easily out of the ground in one perfect long root and I harvest EVERY potato without piercing them with the fork.
Ah, we can but dream, and winter is the time to do this while we plan our perfect garden. Let me walk you through this garden of my mind, and maybe somewhere in it you’ll find a bit of inspiration for yours.
At the bottom of the plot are dwarf apple and plum trees. The apples ripened super early this year and the tree became a gourmet pop-up restaurant for wasps before I got to them, and the plum, after a heavy pruning (which it needed) produced a whopping 8 plums, I think it was. But oh, next year, it will be a plum and apple bonanza. There’ll be pies and crumbles galore, sweet cordials to wash them down with, and maybe some plum and apple chutney to go with some tangy cheese. Mmm.
Then we have the asparagus bed. It has disappointed us somewhat so far, but I’m certain next year we’ll be simply drowning in buttery asparagus. I can think of worse ways to go.
Next is a bed of leeks which have been growing all winter. Once we have finished those off (or filled the freezer with bags of sliced leek medallions) there’ll be a bed of tomatoes. They’re called Defiant, due to their resistance to blight, and they have proved themselves well enough over the last couple of years to earn their place on the plot once again. They’ll be supported on perfectly constructed frames which hold every fruit laden truss clear of the ground, ensuring the slugs can’t reach them – which will be a triumphant first for me. Of course the perfectly regular supply of rain will ensure they don’t get blossom end rot, or split their skins.
Further along is a bed of garlic, a mixture of Vallelado and Messidor, grown from last years garlic bulbs. Of course I have no idea which variety is which, oh come on, no garden (or gardener) is that perfect. But it’s fine because one is a hardback and one is a softneck, so come late spring I’ll be able to spot the hardneck from the curly flower stems (or scapes). Phew, got outta that one.
Under netting will be growing Brussels Sprouts, which WILL be ready in time for Christmas, and not the size of a Malteazer, and amongst them there’ll be some handsome red cabbages ‘Rouge Tete Noir’ because it’s been years since I grew red cabbage, and there’ll be no fluttering clouds of whitefly with every brush past. There’ll also be some purple sprouting broccoli, but it won’t grow tall and leggy over winter and then get blown over by the wind (no matter how firmly I stake it) and it will continue to provide us with delicious sprouting stems through until April without getting stripped by the pigeons once the netting has blown off. I’m sure.
In the roots bed there’ll be a new variety of beetroot called ‘Mulatka’ which will be the most delicious beetroot I’ve ever tasted, along with some Chioggia from last years supply, which is a lovely sweet pink and white striped beet. There’ll be some Dragon Purple carrots, of which every single god damn seed in the row will germinate. And there’ll also be a row of Swede, because this will be the year I finally manage to grow it.
There’s a row of bright red cayenne chillies, and one of Black Hungarian chillies, and for constrast, a block of Golden Sweet mange-tout peas. They’ll provide just the right amount that we need to eat at a steady rate. There will be a couple of rows of chickpeas which will grow just as successfully as they did last year, and not prove to be beginners luck. Plus a wigwam or two of beans for drying and podding.
In the shady spot North of the shed is growing some kale, possibly some different varieties will be joining it, or replacing it, and the bed of dahlias that sits in the sunny spot in front, will of course have overwintered perfectly well and will spring back into life come April.
Beyond the shed, in amongst the nasturtiums, will be some bright orange Red Kuri squashes. The nasturtiums will behave politely and just twine gently around the squashes without taking over the entire bed. Just after that is a row of perpetual spinach that has survived the winter, and will start to grow again come the spring providing some lovely young and tender leaves.
Next is a set of 4 beds that are divided by a cross of bright orange calendula flowers. There are red onions growing already in the top left bed, the bottom left will house a courgette or two, the top right will have tall towering stems of sweetcorn gently swaying in the breeze, and in the bottom left bed will be lettuces and endives, all perfectly untouched by anything slimy.
There’s just enough room in the very top bed for some french style shallots and spring onions, before you get to the beautifully maintained herb bed that really isn’t rife with bindweed.
Of course, I’ve forgotten potatoes. The potatoes will slot into those gaps I’ve obviously missed along the way, I’m certain there’ll be plenty of space and I won’t be panicking at the last minute. There’ll be the same varieties as last year – Charlotte, Anya and Desiree.
In amongst all of this will be pretty flowers filling every gap. A neatly mown grass path down one side with precision edged beds. There’ll be multiple baskets of prefect fruit and vegetables, and it’ll all look just fabulous on Instagram! Okay, maybe that’s taking it too far now.
I hope you all have a lovely Christmas, my shop will be shut for the Christmas period, but will reopen on the 2nd January with a sale.
Happy garden dreaming.