A Little Solstice Solace

Reading time 5 minutes

Perhaps it’s just me, but 2021 has felt like a serious test of our endurance both in general and as gardeners. We started the year in strict lockdown, having had our Christmas plans curtailed at the eleventh hour. Now it seems not impossible that 2022 might begin the same way. At times we have allowed ourselves to imagine that the end of our troubles might be in sight, remarking that things feel almost back to normal, only for Covid 19 to produce a new, more virulent variant. Is this turbulent ‘should we? shouldn’t we?’, ‘can we? can’t we?’ scenario the new normal? Heaven forbid.

Spring was long and cold, eventually giving way to a lacklustre summer. Tender plants and precious seedlings had to wait in the wings until June before they were safe to take centre stage. Some plants prospered in cooler conditions, others dragged their feet. I spent weeks and then months telling myself that a warm spell was just around the corner, but it never came. I missed the abundant sunshine hours that 2020 blessed us with. On the allotment, tomatoes were blighted and courgettes never found their mojo, yet we enjoyed a fine crop of rhubarb, beans, potatoes, raspberries and cucumbers. A balmy autumn partially compensated for the earlier chills, endearing the season to me in a new way. The mellow months of September and October created the perfect environment for our dahlias and chrysanthemums to flourish. November was suspiciously calm, morphing peacefully into a typically moribund December. Monty Don sums the current month up brilliantly:

December is a dismal month for gardeners. If any of the shards of autumn still cling at its outset, they are all discarded by the end. There are leaves to gather and perhaps trees, and hedges to plant but truculent weather, the shortness of the days means that in truth little is asked of the gardener – and very little given back.

I’ve been reflecting on Monty’s words over the last couple of days and conclude that it’s just as well December isn’t a more generous month. We are all, by varying degrees, tired, preoccupied and weighed down by the baggage we’ve accumulated over the last eleven months. We are too jaded to do much other than stumble happily half-conscious towards Christmas and New Year. This month the Beau and I have tried to muster sufficient time and enthusiasm to clear the allotment, plant any remaining tulip bulbs and tidy our workshop. Finding the energy has not been easy and we haven’t gained much satisfaction from our labours. It’s better, I think, to accept that December is a month that has plans for us, and not vice versa. Go with the flow, embrace it or endure it, but don’t fight against it – you will not win. Take control of your life and your garden again in January when the festivities are over and a new start can be made.

Hence today, on the shortest day of the year, we should give ourselves and each other a little pat on the back for having made it this far through a turbulent and troublesome year. Pour a drink, snuggle up, be kind to yourself and coast through the rest of the year as lazily and effortlessly as you can. At no other time do our gardens need us less and our family and friends need us more. Those dirty pots, muddled seed packets, random bulbs and unpruned roses will seem a lot less of a challenge in two weeks’ time. TFG.

Categories: Christmas, Musings, Uncategorized, Weather

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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33 comments On "A Little Solstice Solace"

  1. Absolutely perfect, so well put. Your words have made me smile, feel better and refocus. Thank you for your great blog, always inspiring and interesting. Roll on gardening 2022!
    Happy Christmas to you and the Beau.

  2. Man, did I ever need to read that someone is giving me permission to be lazy and coast through the rest of the year. I am so happy to read I am not the only one suffering. Although by all rights I shouldn’t be complaining. I’m not really, I am giving vent to this apathy I am feeling about the CV variants, personal losses and general malaise. This usually doesn’t strike me until February. We then travel to sort out this bit. As you might know it probably will not be happening this year, again. So please excuse me while I get on with being good to myself. Cheers and all the best to You and The Beau.

    1. You go for it! Unlike the rest of my life, I like my Christmasses to be unstructured and gently spontaneous.

      Of course, I’m not saying that there’s not plenty worse off, but I think we’ll all be better equipped to deal with the current situation after a short time out. We’re all at risk of burning out and then we’re no use to anyone. I totally get your feeling of malaise. I think we’re all feeling a little numb.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope the holiday season allows you to recharge your batteries. X

  3. It is the season when the garden waits on the gardener and we can garden if we wish to do so, or not. There is little growth so nothing getting away from us and we can keep on top of everything with reasonable ease. Peculiarly, I really enjoy being out in the garden at this time of the year and have been so grateful for our dry weather which allowed me do so. And, of course, the snowdrops are into flower!

    Best wishes to you both for Christmas and the New Year!

    1. I know I will enjoy being in the garden a lot more after Christmas Paddy. We go big on decorating so the garden has to take a back seat for a while. Fingers crossed that January won’t be too cold and wet so that we can crack on again soon. Enjoy those snowdrops!

      A very Merry Christmas to you and yours 🎄

  4. You write so eloquently and have summed up the year perfectly. Never underestimate how much pleasure your blog and IG feed give to others. Merry Christmas and let’s hope 2022 is better for all 😉

  5. Thank you for your inspiration and thank God for our gardens. This year I have been thankful for Creative people such as yourselves. So we all deserve a relaxing break with those we love and the landscapes and gardens we take joy from. Cuddle up and enjoy With love Shelley x

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Do true December is not the best month I was clearing leaves today tons of them so I’m now going to take your advice and get warm and snuggle with a hot water bottle
    Happy Christmas to you both

  7. I totally agree with you…although each year I try to fight against the instinct to leave my garden and allotment alone until the New Year!

  8. That was lovely and I’ve taken it to heart and now the rest of December’s gardening list has been moved to January.
    Great idea, thanks. Happy Christmas to you both.

  9. You voiced my (and many other’s) feelings perfectly! Thank you. I will just take pleasure in the lone, white hellebore in flower, and the little green spikes of snowdrops preparing for next year….oh, and the unbelievably persistent geum still flowering😳!
    Happy Christmas🙂

    1. Love those persistent flowers. We still have salvias, anisodontea, cobaea and fuchsias soldiering on. My early daffs are pushing up so it won’t be too long before they’re blooming.

      Merry Christmas Jill 🎄🎅🏼

  10. Happy Christmas to you both and thank you for all your excellent posts and fabulous photos throughout the year. It’s been another long and tiring one so here’s hoping that 2022 is a good one with plenty of sunshine ☀ xx

    1. Oh gosh, hasn’t it been a drag? Here’s to being able to plan something and actually do it for a change. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Cornwall Spring Flower Show goes ahead next year. Hoping to make it down.


  11. Dan, Seed catalogues can only lift the spirits so far. I’m buried in 3′ of snow but I’m taking coleus cuttings and reading up on new veggies to grow. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Danny

    1. You do have epic snow over there in Canada. Folks here would love snow for Christmas but it would cause havoc in my garden.

      Who is your preferred seed supplier? Always interesting to know even if we can’t buy from them in the UK.

      Wishing you a happy, healthy and suitably indulgent Christmas 🎄

  12. Wise words Dan. I haven’t had time for gardening at all so in fact I planted my bulbs 3 days ago in a soggy claggy garden. I was so tired after the term that this was done almost without pleasure. Unlike you I rarely manage to be in control of my life but December allows me to discard the guilt – not much to do anyway. Have a happy Christmas and may the new year bring success to your new project!

    1. I may seem in control of my life but like many people I struggle from time to time. Set reasonable expectations of yourself and never feel guilty if you don’t meet them, difficult as that is in practice. I grapple with this daily.

      Gardening under pressure is no pleasure, I always say it’s not a sport and certainly not a spectator sport. Do it for you or not at all. Merry Christmas and here’s to a brighter, better 2022!

  13. What a lovely post! Thank you for these words of wisdom and kindness. I wish you and the Beau joy this Christmas, and a happier and prosperous 2022

  14. Spot on! It’s the lack of light that makes everything sooooo tricky and heavy, but a couple of snowdrops, Angela’s Early and Three Ships are up and in bud and the sun has returned, so things will get better. Really!

  15. Wonderful words again and you have captured the feelings of the moment for the gardening family. Lots to look forward to in the new year, not least more of your lovely blogs to read. A very happy Christmas to you and the Beau with good health and joy in your new adventures. Lesley

  16. In NJ in the states, we’ve had a particularly warm fall and had flowering ground roses until just last week. As I live in the Pine Barrens, my yard and gutters are filled with dead pine needles. I look at all the perennials that were bought at the end of the season and remain in their ugly pots. Hopefully, they will have the strength to make it, with my lackluster attempt to get them in the ground. However, the outside garden is the least of my worries, as my zillions of indoor plants have been infested with fungus gnats. No one on any garden shows that I know of ever tackles this disgusting pest. So I’m at least being kept busy by repotting, mosquito biting, sticky trap laying, and putting stones on top of doing. I’ve had to toss the worst of what they’ve infested, but managed to save the hoyas, and a wonderful rattlesnake plant. However, as gardeners, hope does spring eternal and I’m wondering if the New Dawn Rose I transplanted will work in its new home…With days getting longer again, I’m not sorry to see this year end. Thank you for your decidedly British perspective…Rebecca

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