Around the solstice is a weird time of year in which to have effectively two gardening blogposts in a row, but I hope long-suffering programmer readers will forgive me. After all, at the darkest point in the calendar, a bit of gardening is a good way to spend the few daylight hours that are available.
This morning, the tail end of windy, stormy weather gradually passed over the Cotswolds; meanwhile, the tail end of a short-lived head cold gradually passed out of my sinuses. The sun rose on both Witney generally and my brain specifically, and—having unfortunately missed the Cogges big dig earlier in the day—I decided to potter in my own garden. Once you start, it's surprising how many jobs you can find to do, even in the depths of winter.
After the wind has scattered all the leaves and dead annuals, the temptation is to tidy up a bit too much: beneficial insects and small vertebrates can be hibernating in wood piles and other bits of rubbish. So I avoided moving too many things, but the remnants of the late-flowering Clematis jackmanii "superba" had to be pruned back hard—it was starting to put on new buds on its big, bushy growth—as did the stalks of Iberis sempervirens; and I also removed the carcases of pelargoniums and chamomiles, which were liable to rot as much as help hide hibernating creatures.
Even in the depths of winter, some things were starting to grow, and so I also brought some of the tubs of bulbs closer to the house: the daffodils we dug up when we prepared the mixed border last spring, and can't seem to kill; plus Iris "Katharine Hodgkin" we got from Kingston Bagpuise House almost a couple of years ago. It's not the best time of year to do it but I took a chance on pruning the ceanothus and cotoneaster which were starting to block the back door, thus allowing me to actually get the green bin full of clematis etc. out!
Finally, I assembled a small trellis of twine and canes to support our overwintering broad beans:
Ignore the cage with the tennis balls: they've been there for ages as part of the raised bed. Then you should be able to see eight other upright canes, permitting a zigzag of twine to cover the whole of the two strips of broad beans: Aguadulce Claudia (left) and The Sutton heritage variety (right). The Sutton is OK at overwintering but not amazing: I've already lost one to damping off because of the wet conditions and pest damage. I've been told I could try planting a new one and it will germinate, but we'll see.
The last thing I did was to put rubber tops on all the canes, to stop myself poking my eye out. As I did so, ironically I caught my (by that point ungloved) hand on a staple in the plastic pack of cane tops and received my first gardening injury of the year! Safety first, eh? A bit of Savlon cream and a plaster later and I'm right as rain. In fact, when Kate came back from the shops, she said "you've cheered up since you went outside." I think she's right.