Ever since I saw this meme, hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener (thanks Helen!) I knew I was going to have to join in. What better way of keeping tabs on how your garden is changing through the year: rewarding yourself for the little improvements you’ve made, showing you where your priorities should be and reminding yourself how much it matters that you didn’t get around to raking the leaves/pruning that shrub/clearing that border when you were supposed to. I’ve got the added incentive of a new garden: so (a pure indulgence I’m afraid) I’ve also added a smaller ‘before’ photo first, taken shortly after we arrived here last autumn, to compare and contrast: sometimes, big change, more often, a reminder that there’s so much left to do. And, I have to say, also a reminder of how lovely and warm it was last autumn: my goodness but the comparison makes the garden now look even chillier than it feels. My veg garden is where the main work has been going on. The picture taken in autumn was taken a little further back (the second tree up is the one you can see in the foreground of this month’s photo): but several months of cutting back hedges and intensive rabbit-fencing now means I now have half a chance of growing vegetables in this strip. I’ve only reached about halfway down the available space but what I have up and running is about 80ft by 12ft. As you can see I’ve also started growing things: that cloche is over my overwintering broad beans (there are autumn-sown onions in there too). And just check out that pile of green waste (this is the lower slopes of a mountain rising up behind). We already spent all day yesterday burning the first lot: now I just have to barrow this pile up to the hill and we can start all over again. On the other side of the gate into this area is what’s going to be my fruit cage (-that-doesn’t-look-like-a-fruit-cage). Design plans still ongoing…. I’ve cleared the veg beds which were here when we came, and very nice the beetroot were too, and this area is now also home to a second greenhouse – relocated (with help from Paul Debois – who found time in between lugging sheets of rusty metal around to take a photo – and a very large rented van) from my old allotment in Surrey. The pit is there a) to capture unwary husbands helping to erect said greenhouse and b) originally as a shed base, but then I changed my mind and decided it would block the view too much. Oh yes, and I’ve been stripping acres of ivy plus not a few roof tiles off the single garage, which is now de facto my shed, having been wrenched with many protestations off my husband who rather fancied it as a wood store. My technique was a cunning mix of bribery and compromise: he needed somewhere to put his motorbike, I needed somewhere to put my potting bench. QED. Spot the difference? What will be my cutting garden: haven’t touched it. Apart from the lawnmowing, but even that was by proxy. The rock garden, or herb garden as it shall be known (as I am allergic to rock gardens) is looking considerably more wintery these days: I’ve done a little clearing here but this is the start of my Really Messy Garden as I am poised to do my Grand February Springclean any moment now. So what you have here is basically the remains of last year’s plants: sad, yes, but the little beasties have appreciated the extra hibernating opportunities and I’m hoping I’ve helped protect the emerging shoots of some of the more tender plants in there (fuchsias, mainly: that great big bush to the right is a fuchsia, and a mighty fine one at that. It’s in the wrong place, though: how do you go about moving a huge great thing like that?!). Popping up all over the place in the rock garden are my lovely snowdrops: now there’s a phrase I’ve never been able to use before. Condemned to a snowdrop-less existence because of the acid sand I used to garden on (kept meaning to buy Galanthus elwesii which can apparently cope with drier conditions but never quite got around to it) I now have the damp chalk and shade they relish. The garden is full of snowdrops, and my heart is just singing. Hmm… another spot the difference. This is where most of the clearing needs to be done: great swathes of dead rogersia leaves and the new shoots of daylilies and geraniums struggling to make it up through the brown slimy mush currently collapsed on their heads. Plus zillions of dead stems, asters and valerian mostly, needing to be snipped out at the base. The spring clear-up is my first major job of the season, and also one of my favourites; it’s like sweeping a brush over the garden and clearing the way for the new growth to come. I love it. The mahonia which grows here is a very fine specimen and has given me something to look at all winter, for which I’m grateful. I’m wondering whether to raise the crown on this one, however, and see if I can grow something underneath: I have fond memories of a mahonia tree in a client’s garden I used to look after and would dearly love something like it myself. Wonder if this one can be persuaded…? Oh now this is a little depressing. I haven’t touched this bit either – even, as you can see, to the point of not removing the sunflower stems which are now lurching even more drunkenly in various different directions. But then the bluetits did love hanging upside down off them enjoying the seeds, right through till the end of December. About the only change here has been Guineapig Palace, just visible beyond the viburnum (‘Dawn’ – another one whose flowers have been keeping me going through the coldest months). Previously a shepherd’s hut my carpenter husband made for a garden show, now housing Nibbles, Marmalade and Smokey Bacon who are in seventh heaven with the run of a shed-sized hutch and very snug and cosy. The hill is also looking a little bleak (I took this month’s standing with the trampoline behind me: it is still a little bone of contention in our house that we are looking at a large lump of blue plastic in such a lovely environment). The kids built a den up at the top, nicking the trampoline cover and a large ladder to do so, but otherwise not much has been happening here apart from… Aren’t they lovely?