Countdown to Christmas


I can count the number of days I get to spend at home before Christmas on one hand. I’ve stopped buying an advent calendar because I’m never around to open the doors. Even though it’s the same every year, I am persistently overambitious about what I can achieve in those precious spells between work and travel. I plan as if I am a lady who lunches, with all the time in the world to be making wreaths, swagging the staircase with foliage plucked from the garden and cooking up a storm in the kitchen. These things are, I am sorry to say, highly unlikely to happen, but I live in hope.

It’s been comforting to acknowledge, via various social media, that I am not the only gardener still planting tulip bulbs. I have a few bags left that will be perfectly fine planted next weekend. I’ll be in The Netherlands this week, so I’ll doubtless return with a quantity of amaryllis bulbs for myself and for friends. I avoid those that have been dipped in red or gold wax and covered in glitter, which looks like torture for the poor bulb. I will also avert my gaze from the grotesquely flocked and flittered succulents which one often sees in Dutch garden centres. Quite who buys them I do not know. However, I will be on the look out for tasteful decorations and lots of moss and berries. I shall take great pleasure in taking these through the bag check at Düsseldorf airport, along with copious toothsome Stroopwafels and cheeky chunks of Gouda cheese. Christmas is coming, after all.

I went out yesterday to buy drawing pins and returned home with a Beswick Vase (in the Clarice Cliff style), a very substantial 1920’s oak coat stand and a little mahogany side table. I desperately needed the side table so that my guests have somewhere to put their tea cups down in the library, but I did not need (and nor could I really afford) the coat stand or the vase. That said, both spontaneous purchases have fitted in marvellously; the coat stand in the garden room, crowned with a lipstick vine (aeschynanthus) and with another dangling from one of its hooks. The stand is a good seven feet tall and has a very handy metal tray at the bottom, which I assume was meant to stop wet umbrellas from dripping on one’s parquet floor. My ancient Lino is not worth saving so I’ve stood an Arabian jasmine in it (Jasminum sambac). The vase is sitting proudly at the top of a bookcase in the library, out of harm’s way. The irony is that the drawing pins did not penetrate the surface I wanted them to. I went out again to buy some tacks and came back with a yellow cymbidium orchid and three schlumbergias, so after that I thought it was safer to stay indoors.

Last year the garden room was empty enough for me to fit a handsome Fraser fir at one end, but there’s no chance of repeating the exercise this year; the house plants have taken over. Instead I am going to tuck a few soft white lights in among the foliage, disguised by fresh moss. I’ve hung giant, olive-green baubles to disguise the unfinished walls near the boiler cupboard. Knowing me, I will keep adding and adding to the display until Christmas Eve. Despite time pressures, I enjoy the countdown to Christmas so much more than the day itself, and certainly more than the aftermath.

I’d love to hear how your preparations are going and how you decorate for the festive season with plants. TFG.