How your garden can help you look to the future

Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog
Your garden has a remarkable ability to keep you focussed on the future rather than dwell on the past.

I realised this when looking for things to photograph in my garden in order to participate in the #mygardenrightnow initiative prompted by Michelle at the vegplotting blog. You can join in by posting a picture of you in your garden this weekend on social media using the hashtag.

As Christmas approaches, it can be a difficult time for many people with memories of loved ones no longer with them to enjoy the festivities. This time of year prompts us to look back, over the year just coming to an end, and to past times enjoyed with family and friends.

Conversely, a garden offers signs of hope for the future. Nature presses relentlessly on every day, always working towards it's purpose of growth, renewal and reproduction. The garden inevitably perseveres through any difficulties thrown its way by climate, weather or the gardener.   


So there I was searching for images that encapsulate the mood of the day and the seasonal state of affairs in my garden. December is often mistakenly seen as a time to "put the garden to bed" for winter. In the UK climate, as the weather turns icy and the days shorten, it is easy to think that nothing is growing, that the plants are dormant, and that it's hardly worth going outside until spring prompts everything to get going again.
But to think that the garden goes into hibernation is a mistake, and ignoring it means you are missing out. Far from going to bed, many things in the garden are already waking up.
Whilst tulips and many other plants won't appear till spring, slower growing perennials are poking through the soil's surface now, as they start their longer, slower cycle of growth which will take them cautiously through the cold months to reach their final glory in summer sunshine.
It may be true that at this time of year many of us only get to see our gardens for a couple of days a week, denied the pleasure of them for most of the week by commitments which keep us elsewhere during what daylight there is.
But like a distant grandmother who visits only occasionally, we then see changes made all the more significant by the time that has passed, and can proclaim "haven't you grown?" as the plants continue their business during the week while we weren't watching. 
And all these signs of renewal and new life in the garden remind us that while we may feel sorrow at being without loved ones at Christmas, and be tempted to dwell on those memories of times gone by, there is a spring and summer to come once more time passes.
The garden encourages us to look forward. We can enjoy the memories, and have fun creating new ones with those around us now, but the garden also offers proof that life goes on. We can rely on the fact that the plants barely nudging through the soil now will become tall, grand and colourful in a few months time. 
Even in places where there is little to see at the moment, there will soon be tall architectural foliage and colourful blooms, and that prospect always gladdens my heart and keeps me looking forward to seeing it become a reality again, as it does every year.
Here are the plants offering hope for the future in #mygardenrightnow: 

Sedum spectabile  

Sedum emerging Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog
Sedum spectabile

Sedum is one of the plants that are worth leaving all winter before cutting them back. At the top of the plant, the seed heads look great in frost, and provide some structure and texture if left in place, while others die back. But next years shoots are already emerging and are beautiful in their own right. When you do eventually cut back this year's stems, these fresh ones will take over, and you know you'll have something to look good and bring in the bees and butterflies next year.



Day lily shoots Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog

Day lilies are also showing themselves. They spread quite vigorously via their roots and will pop up quite a way from the parent plant. Now is a good time to control them by pulling out these young shoots from areas where you don't want them. At this stage it's a lot easier to do than when they get bigger later on.  They flower profusely so there'll be lots of colour next summer.


Peony emerging Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog
Unlike the sedum, I cut back peonies in late summer. Apart from their seed heads, they do look very untidy after they finish flowering, so they are cut back to the ground after we've enjoyed the seed heads for a while. Now though, the new shoots are just starting to emerge between the remains of the old stems. They'll grow slowly during the cold weather but then will accelerate and offer big blousy flowers in spring.


amellia buds Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog

Camellia is evergreen. It should be pruned after it flowers in spring. I cut mine back a little in summer to stop it getting too leggy but from August onwards it should be left to grow without hindrance, as it is then developing the flower buds for next year. Cutting it back late in the year will remove those flowers. Mine is in a large pot which restricts it a little, but there are nonetheless some good buds developing as you can see. When you see these buds developing you know you're in for a treat in late winter.


Garlic shoots Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog
Garlic "Marco"

To trigger growth, and in particular to trigger the formation of cloves rather than a single bulb, garlic needs a spell of cold. I plant mine in October, guaranteeing at least a couple of weeks of freezing temperatures between then and the spring. At this stage the young plants look like spring onions, with the promise of getting bigger and bigger until harvest time after the leaves die back in summer. These are by the back door. I've also planted more at the allotment.


Daffodils emerging Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog

One of the first flowers to show in spring, the daffodils are getting started already. Even if you have a very small garden, you can fill a couple of pots with daffodil bulbs and you'll have good splashes of colour in February and March - always something to look forward to.


Eremurus emerging Garden Look to the future #mygardenrightnow Green Fingered Blog
A large pot full of foxglove seedlings offers plenty of promise for 2018, but hidden for now beneath their leaves is the very first emergence of this eremurus, or foxtail lily. What excitement to peel back those leaves to see that the eremurus is safe and sound, and starting to grow. It will reach about eight feet tall by summer, a spectacular sight soaring above everything around it with it's long graceful flower spike. It's so reassuring to see it start it's cycle again, as I think ahead to how it will look when fully grown. This is how the garden always offers something to keep your mind on what's ahead. 


  1. thankyou for this lovely thoughtful blog. My mum of 102 has spent the autumn planting bulbs everywhere she can in the Care Home she lives in, especially tulips. She is sadly in hospital now with a new hip and I am hoping that the thought of seeing the tulips come up will help her to get through this and come out the other side of Christmas. Your articles is inspiring and the points you make are very true. thanks.

  2. Thanks Julie for a lovely comment. I'm glad it resonated with you, and it's nice to know you were inspired! There are so many ways that a garden can help us in our lives or change our perspective on things, and I'm glad that came across to you and hopefully others.

  3. Hi Paul - thanks for taking part in #mygardenrightnow :) It's amazing how much life everyone found in their garden at this time of the year. Your garlic photo reminded me I have some smaller cloves planted out which I'm using as green garlic. It was lovely to snip off a few leaves for our supper on Sunday! I've now put a proper link to your post over at my blog :)

    1. Thanks Michelle, good to see all the other #mygardenrightnow posts, thanks for pulling it all together!