Absent.

You may or may not have noticed, but I have not been posting quite as regularly of late. There is no intention in this, I’ve simply been up to my eyes in managing my work/life balance and enjoying time with my little family. Being perpetually busy is no good for one’s creativity, and through most of the autumn I’ve simply been too tired to think of anything good to write. Christmas being my work, as well as featuring in my top five life obsessions, puts a lot of strain on the months of November and December. Rather than fret about it, I have decided to let go until the New Year, when I can pick up writing again with renewed vigour.

Meanwhile there’s been no let-up in the effort required to put my garden to bed for winter, nor to ready it for spring. Autumn and early winter in the east of England has been uncharacteristically wet, yet typically windy and mild. Most of my tender plants have already been given shelter, either in the greenhouse, workshop or indoors. The remainder will be dealt with over Christmas or before the first proper cold snap.

The Beau and I are well advanced with our bulb planting, so much so that many narcissi are already pushing their little green duck bills into the light. I will be replanting the raised beds in late spring, so where there are gaps we are planting tulips to provide a temporary flash of colour. I’ve reverted to the orange and plum shades that have been so successful in the past, welcoming back varieties such as ‘Orange Dynasty’, ‘Slawa’ and ‘Request’. If the winter is kind they will end up clashing with half a dozen shocking pink Geranium maderense, which are entering a final nerve-racking growth spurt before blooming. Any hint of frost and they’ll be done for.

As always a few plants have clung on, producing flowers well into December. Cobaea pringlei is one such trouper, still blooming prolifically 20ft up in the canopy of my bay tree, fully exposed to the wind on three sides. When the gales blow in, the cobaea’s long, rambling stems bob and bounce like serpents on a storm-tossed sea: their flexibility is what saves them from being damaged. Each elegantly pleated, ivory trumpet is a joy to behold, eventually falling to reveal a star-shaped calyx. Exactly why this beautiful climber is not more widely grown I cannot fathom, although I believe it may be tricky to propagate.

In the greenhouse Salvia dombeyi has grown lush and luxurious, producing an endless succession of pendulous scarlet flowers. They are the largest of the genus, measuring up to 9cm in length and resembling Fuchsia boliviana in form and colour. The biggest surprise has been Dahlia tampaulipana, purchased from Pan Global Plants in August. This New Mexican species has been blooming since October. We’d expected to wait for years, or until it had reached a decent size, although admittedly the washed-out magenta flowers are something of an anticlimax.

Last week I travelled to The Netherlands on business, which happily required a day visiting garden centres and other shops pedalling Christmas decorations. I am always dazzled by the quantity and quality of the house plants available, as well as the low prices. The beauty of some is questionable, especially the plethora of vividly coloured, glittered and mutated poinsettias on offer. A bench full of cypress trees thickly sprayed with rainbow glitter was torture to look at, but I was envious of the wide choice of exotic foliage plants. One year I will take a car over and fill up with plants and bulbs before heading home. The Christmas decorations were not bad, but not a patch on what we have available in the UK, especially London. I found a few little treasures in Amsterdam, where I also stocked up on cheese and stroopwafels.

Back at home, I am delighted to have stopped travelling until the New Year. For the last few weekends I have been busy decorating my Christmas trees, with only two left to complete before the festivities begin. Then we shall have a total of seven at The Watch House, which I have to confess is probably the maximum. There’s another collection of baubles I’d like to work with, but short of putting a tree in a bathroom or rarely used bedroom I am out of options. What I have done instead is to decorate outside using warm-white pea lights wrapped around the trunk and branches of each tree in the Jungle Garden. The effect is simple yet welcoming. If you’d like to see more of my Christmas decorating exploits, you can find me on Instagram @the_world_of_mrchristmas.

Though I worked harder than ever to get ahead of myself with Christmas planning, yet again I find myself on the back foot. There are cards to write, presents to wrap, ingredients to order, garlands to hang and people to see, plus The Beau has a big birthday in exactly a week’s time. Quite how I managed to post every day through December last year I do not know! Still, all the fun is in the preparation, and I shall be sad when Christmas is over. I must live in the moment and enjoy the prospect of precious time off with family and friends. If am a little absent until the New Year let me apologise now, whist wishing you the merriest of Christmasses. TFG.

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45 thoughts on “Absent.

  1. I have missed your interesting articles Dan, especially cheering in this dreadful weather! I look forward to the next one and may have to re read ypur earlier ones. I wish you a Happy Christmas and a woderful 2020.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely to see you pop up this morning and it’s a busy time of year for most of us so don’t worry. We’re all delighted when you do have the time to write and share your lovely photo’s. Happy Christmas. Elaine.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Greetings from Penang, Malaysia. Have been a fan for awhile now 😊😊 thought perhaps it’s about time to drop you a line and wish you a very merry Christmas this year 😊 regards, Lin

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan, take as much time as you need to enjoy meeting your family and friends and preparing for Christmas. We all know you are there, busy as always and we are grateful for all the posts you have already written and those you are going to write in the future. Happy and merry Christmas to you and yours and a happy big birthday to The Beau.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Paweł. I have been a little too focused on Instagram of late, and that is more time consuming than you might imagine. Just not enough hours in the day sometimes! Hope winter has not been too harsh thus far. Looking forward to all your snowdrop and hellebore pictures in the New Year. Until then, Happy Christmas. Dan

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  4. Well here’s a “thank you” from me too – and an enjoy your break! Like many others, I look forward to your writing, but totally get what you are saying. Thanks to the suggestion from an earlier correspondent, I’m going to go back over your daily Advent posts from last year- they were fantastic and will be just as inspirational this year. Have a lovely time and a very happy new year!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Julie. I actually had a plan to repeat the advent posts this year with a different, festive, plant-based project every day. Then I thought ‘who are you kidding?’ !! It was fun to do once, but quite a mission. I shall perhaps run the projects in spring instead. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Dan

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  5. First email I opened this morning ! Was so happy to see it and read it. Thank you so much as always for your time and dedication to keeping us all up to date and sharing your life with us ! It is a busy time and it’s a great idea to try and live in the moment and enjoy each day and what it brings with it. Happy Christmas to you and happy big birthday to the Beau.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lovely to hear from you ! Best wishes to you both for the holidays, and specially to the Beau for the big birthday next week. Sarah. P. S. I bought the plant you advised and it is flourishing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re forgiven because you showed us some of your beautiful garden and decorations. We all need to take time to enjoy the season especially ‘Mr. Christmas.’ 🙂 Just a ‘technical’ fyi, I couldn’t ‘like’ the post because something between our systems wouldn’t let me. I logged in and out, changed browsers, but nada. So, consider this a virtual like. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s most strange. These things are always a mystery to me. However I very much appreciate the lovely comment in lieu of a ‘like’.

      Hope it’s not too cold and grey where you are? Here we have had more rain in an autumn / winter season than I can ever recall. Fortunately my garden is so well drained that it makes little difference, but in some parts of the country the ground is saturated.

      Hoping to post again before Christmas, but if not, Happy Christmas to you and yours. Dan

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  8. Lovely to hear from you again Dan and see what you’ve been up to. Your garden is still beautiful. Nice to know you are happy and busy and enjoying life. Have a fabulous Christmas and celebrations with the Beau. Look forward to more of your great posts next year. 🎄🎉🎊🍾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Things will calm down a bit soon and I will at least get my train time back. At the moment it’s used either for clearing e-mails or napping. I’ve lost count of all the posts I meant to write! Wishing you a very Happy Christmas. Dan

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  9. Ho ho ho…tis the season to be busy. I am happy to hear that it is because you are happy, up to your eyeballs in lights, bulbs and The Beau. Your garden has so much green! and the lighting makes it look so joyful and fresh despite the dreary wet weather. Your absence is felt but met with great anticipation of a new year. Have the Merriest Christmas and Happy Healthy New Year.

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    1. You are too kind, but it’s nice to be appreciated, thank you. The garden is indeed very green at the moment, and provided the weather behaves itself, it should stay that way over winter. Fingers crossed! I expect it’s somewhat colder where you are? Dan

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  10. That’s like me from the months of May – November, when I’m out of my mind with weddings. As an event planner and avid gardener, it’s not ideal to be at my most crazed during gardening season! Wishing you a very merry Christmas!

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  11. No need to apologize Dan. I often wonder how you manage to write so many wonderful, deeply intelligent articles while working & living your life ‘full-on’ daily!
    The photos in today’s post are beautiful, thank-you.
    Wishing you a very Happy Christmas with much R&R and many blessings in 2020. Happy Birthday to your Beau.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kathleen, you are very kind indeed. In truth I feel quite uncomfortable about leaving so long between posts, since blogging has been so much a part of what I do for the last seven years. Equally I am enjoying spending a little more time away from the computer screen. Hopefully the New Year will see me establish a good balance between the two. Wishing you all the best this Christmas and beyond. Dan

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  12. I never miss your elegant and inspiring blog entries, breathtaking photos, although I never comment. Today, I must, however, because your Beau’s birthday is shared by my younger son, one week from today, as you say, on 18 December – the best Christmas gift I ever received, 45 years ago. Happy birthday to Beau, a joyful Christmas to you both, with gratitude from me for the lovely gift of your generously shared thoughts and visuals throughout the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hello Dan and happy Christmas ( and happy cold January birthday too!). Just wanted to add to your post that listening to the back catalogue of Desert Island Discs I heard the late Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter say to Sue Lawley that peach, plum and orange go perfectly well with pink and indeed often appear in the same flower! I know he was the king of vivid clashing colours but perhaps whatever other problems we all have today at least our tulips won’t be clashing with our geraniums in the Spring!😊

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Take the opportunity of time away from the keyboard Dan – all of us out here can wait for your next missive and if it is half as good as those you have posted in 2019, we are in for a treat. Best Wishes for the Festive Season to you and yours. Mrs. P,

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It was good to see your blog in my ‘in box’. I too wondered if all was ok!! Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas and all the best of everything for 2020.

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  16. Your plan to load a car with plants and drive over from the Netherlands – I should think it safer to do before Brexit happens. Unlicensed export/import of plants to/from non-EU countries is heavily curtailed.

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

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