So here we are again, at the tipping point of the year, where we look forward to lengthening days and the return of the light. It’s an odd sort of thing to feel on the one hand that winter is over and on the other know that really it has yet to begin.
Dawning of a new day
With only one frost here so far this season the garden is still rather floriferous, if a little perplexing, and although I am not complaining about double digit daytime temperatures I do wonder what knock on effect this overly warm start to the Winter will have next year.
At the moment we have a rather odd mix of flowers in the garden, primroses, hellebores, wallflowers, celandines and the odd snowdrop alongside roses, hesperantha, pelargoniums and hardy geraniums. Some are early and some are just downright confused having no business being in flower at the end of December at all.
Its not just the flora that’s bemused the fauna seem to be unseasonably active. Bees, both honey and bumble, are out and about looking for food and I pity the poor lady pheasants, it seems they are in for an extra couple of months of harassment as the chaps are already squaring up to each other in a territorial fashion.
This year more than any other feels as though Winter decided to take a holiday and let it’s young friend Spring mind the shop for a few months. Although I do wonder if Winter will return with renewed vim and vigor having being refreshed by an out of season break, and so with that in mind I’m off now to try and find my thermals (just in case).
And so the tipping point of the winter has arrived.
Even though, once more, we are coping with horrendous floods over most of the country and the talk is of the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy, the Sun rose in a clear sky this morning. The birds greeted the dawn with one of the loudest choruses I have heard in a long time and I am filled with the feeling of hope and the promise of things to come.
The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and the beginning of Winter, not much to celebrate there you might think, well think again. The coldest weather may still be to come but from today until the Summer Solstice on June 21st the days will lengthen and the sun will rise higher in the sky*.
I love the traditions and lore surrounding the Winter Solstice, the battle between the Oak and Holly Kings, with the Oak King winning to rule for the next six months. The Oak King represents a time of renewal and rebirth and growth. The Holly King, by contrast, represents a time of rest, contemplation and learning. Interestingly the Holly King is often described as a having white hair, a white beard, robes of red or green and driving a sledge pulled by stags (sound like anybody you know).
No matter what traditions you keep or if the solstice passes you by, the inescapable fact is that the the garden knows that Spring is on its way. The Arums have come to say hello, the cleavers and cow parsley are now on standby. So whether you wassail or no, the garden may just be starting without you.
*For me the height of the sun is hugely important as my garden is at the base of a hill which casts a long shadow in the depths of winter.
So Happy Solstice here’s to Spring and the Promise of Things to Come .