SEASON’S GREETINGS FROM THE WATCH HOUSE

Hello One and All! It’s been a while.

Like everyone else, The Beau and I have been ducking and diving, trying to tackle this crazy year unscathed. Arriving at the eve of Christmas feels like an achievement in itself, although it’s not come a moment too soon for our sanity. That said, we are all in one piece and have far more to be grateful for than to complain about. We have good food, ample drink, games, books, music, warmth and each others’ company to see us through this festive season. Max and Millie, our beloved pups, have been living their best lives throughout the pandemic. They’ve enjoyed having attention all day, whilst exploiting additional opportunities to pester us for treats.

This little display in one of our guest bedrooms is normally staged for my niece, Martha, but this year she will have to admire it via FaceTime.

Gardening has taken a back seat during December. Despite having no visitors to entertain this Christmas, we have still assembled and decorated eight Christmas trees at The Watch House. We will be leaving them up for as long as it suits us. Having discovered that the whole twelfth night superstition was a Victorian invention intended to curtail the festivities, I have chosen to observe Candlemas on February 2nd. This was the original end of Christmas celebrations and is still observed in some countries. The Queen, I understand, leaves her decorations in place until February 6th. Since Kent is likely to be locked down until March, no-one apart from us will see our baubles brazenly displayed beyond their traditional ‘best before’ date in any case. I am in strong agreement with novelist Nora Roberts when it comes to the solace a beautifully dressed Christmas tree can offer a home:

“Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad when you’ve got a Christmas tree in the living room.”

Nora roberts

Making a time-lapse video of our Fraser fir in the library being decorated has become a family tradition.

It’s been mercifully mild on the East Kent coast, which is so often the way winters begin here. The weather has presented precious little impetus for us to clear away the last vestiges of summer. The Gin and Tonic Garden has barely been touched since October. Although the plants look a little ragged, Fuchsia boliviana, Sparmannia africana and Abutilon ‘Tango’ will all be flowering prolifically on Christmas Day. I don’t have the heart to curtail their last hurrah. Before the New Year, weather permitting, we will get outside and pack up the remaining gingers and cannas so that they can have a winter rest. On the allotment we still have to lift half the dahlias and start making repairs to the edges of the beds. Neither of us feel terribly motivated to do this right now, but given a cold, crisp day rather than a grey, soggy one, we might just muster the energy.

We’ve decorated a full-size tree in the morning room for the first time this year.

The Beau ordered the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalogue from the USA in September and it arrived about three months later. More a book than a catalogue, it was worth the wait and the expense. It’s unlikely we will be able to order from it due to import regulations, but each page is so beautifully produced and packed with information that we will reap ample benefit from adding the tome to our library.

Also on our ‘to do’ list this holiday season is placing our order for dahlias and chrysanthemums with Halls of Heddon. We’re giving Halls a try now that the National Dahlia Collection has closed and having found some other suppliers to be unreliable in 2020. Whittling our wish list down to match the space available could be an interesting challenge!

The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalogue is jam-packed with exciting ideas for our allotment next year.

It just remains for The Beau and I to wish you and yours a very happy and peaceful Christmas. It’s easy to forget what a tough year this has been, to overlook the toll it’s taken on our mental and physical health as well as our working lives and relationships. For many of us our gardens have been an important source of comfort, strength, exercise and joy. Let’s be thankful and pray for the energy, imagination and good weather to be able to enjoy them even more in 2021. TFG.

A few of my favourite Christmas things, as displayed on the tree in our dining room at The Watch House