Monday, 23 January 2012

Thinking about the garden

Gardening in January is a miserable thing.  Paths are muddy, soil is cold,  and all those things you didn't cut down in the autumn so as to be wildlife friendly and which you hoped would stand whorled with frost against a low sun droop and drip sadly in a soggy, bedraggled tangle.  All the talk about winter gardens and structure which you can ignore in the summer when your garden is flowering its socks off comes back to haunt you.  Yes you do need the hardlandscaping and paths you can't find the time or money to sort out.  Yes indeed, you should have more evergreens.  I usually cope with January by staying inside by the stove.  This year in particular I have been knitting.


I made a Moebius cowl, partly because I loved my first neck warmer so much and partly because I have always been fascinated by the Moebius strip which apparently has no beginning and no end.  Actually knitting one was amazing.  I still don't really understand how it works as you knit it on a doubled circular needle.  It seems as if you cast on in what becomes the middle of the cowl and as you work the cowl becomes deeper and deeper, each new row adding to both the bottom and the top of the coil.  Still no wiser?  No, I wasn't either.  I just followed the instructions with my mouth open in amazement.


Then I made a cable cowl which is probably my favourite of the three.  It is very soft and warm and the cable pattern is deeply satisfying to knit.  Both these patterns came from a fabulous website called ravelry  If you are at all interested in knitting take a look.  There is a vast selection of patterns and yarns to look at, many of the patterns are free, and it has transformed me from a clumsy knitter who had done nothing for twenty years or so into a person who can make things she actually wants to wear.  The latest project is a cardigan for me, the first full size garment I have made since I was about sixteen when I laboured for months over a jumper which ended up so saggy and baggy that I nearly cried with disappointment and never wore it.  When I am not knitting I have my fingers crossed about this latest endeavour.  So far so good.  If you never see a picture of it you will know it was another disaster.

But today I have worked in the garden, the first garden day of the new year.  We are looking after our son's dog for a week so I had to take her for a walk this morning and that set me off feeling like being outside again. A well behaved dog is a good companion in the garden, lying peacefully alongside when I was cutting back hellebore leaves so you can see the newly emerging flowers, snuffling about in the field, occasionally  disappearing off to check the corner of the field where the badgers come through or turning up hopefully with a stick for a quick game of retrieve.  I cut back a lot of lank perennials and everything in the side garden at least looked better for it.  There were places I didn't even get to and there was the usual rush of reminders of how very much there is to do out there but there were snowdrops pushing through and arum leaves gleaming in the weak sun.




I don't think there are as many snowdrops as usual this year although I haven't yet done my totally anal snowdrop count.  I wonder if they dislike the milder winter we have had so far.  Certainly last year when the hard December snow went  huge clumps of them emerged in January although I didn't do my usual job of splitting the clumps to encourage them to spread.  It was wonderful to find quite how much space I have for more bulbs in the new bed at the bottom of the field although I couldn't find any of the winter aconites I planted last year.  Should they be out now?

I think I might be ready to go outside again.

37 comments:

  1. I really enjoy seeing photos of your garden (although I do feel a bit envious!) Those cowls look beautiful too...

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    1. Don't be envious. I am not showing you the mud and piles of unused manure!

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  2. Love the snowdrops, especially today! - it's -14C here in Seoul and everything's grey and miserable looking, even in the sun. Haven't knit for ages, but I think a neck warmer might be just the thing to while away the long cold winter evenings - really loved your Moebius Cowl, although I have severe doubts as to my ability to produce one! Off to Ravelry to see if it can be done!

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    1. Neckwarmers are the perfect early knitting project because they don't take very long - they are just a short scarf really so they are quite simple. go for it!

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  3. Good grief! Some of us have enough trouble in trying to garden in the summer. Gardening in the winter, with the garden under several feet of snow, is so "not on." But your pictures of your garden are always such a delight, even if the dog is missing.

    You knitting looks wonderful. Just the thing I need around my throat when I'm hibernating.

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    1. Now I wouldnt be trying under several feet of snow Bear! The last two winters have been pretty harsh here and they were spent firmly inside.

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  4. I'm on Ravelry but have to confess that I've never used any of the patterns. I knit almost exclusively for my grandchildren these days. I've had several gardening days this January and can't believe how much I've got done. You've reminded me that I need to cut back the hellebore leaves though:) And like you I see every winter how much my garden lacks in hard landscaping and structure - it's a cottage garden though and suits me well enough as it is.

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    1. I would like the paths bit of structure but it is quite a big deal here so may have to wait! I don't notice so much in summer but in winter it all gets a bit bare!

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  5. Ooh, I'm on Rav too (KazJones) so I've just friended you! I use the patterns there all the time and have just taught myself to knit. I managed to make my very first knitted thing - a cowl - moebius by accident on a singular circular. It was meant to just be a tube but somehow I twisted the stitches.

    I felt bad about not going into the garden yesterday as it was really quite nice but haven't found the motivation yet. Which doesn't bode well for the allotment either. Oh well, plenty enough time yet....

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    1. Ah I have found you on Ravelry! Its a great site. Quite amazing amount of info and patterns and very helpful too to novices.

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  6. Accidentally on purpose, made a Moebius cowl ;~) wonderful idea, I'm tempted, for next winter.

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    1. They are fab Diana! And quick and easy once you get the idea. Would recommend it!

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  7. Those neck warmers look just the thing - achievable sized! I too am working on a cardigan - it must have the most complicated pattern in the entire universe. I have had to write down each row and cross it off as it is knitted. Never. Again. Like you I have the fingers and toes crossed as to fit.

    My garden is a tribute to the many shades of brown although am feeling rather smug about some of my structure things - lots of nice coloured bark to look at and my yew obelisks are nearly doing what I want them to.

    Can't see my aconites either. Perhaps it is a little early?

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    1. Good to know you haven't got any aconites up yet. Thought they might have died on me!

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  8. loved this, Eliz, and have bookmarked Rav for future leching.
    You describe perfectly the great lie - frost/lowsun/structure against reality - soggy halfhearted straggle. I've a few hellebores, which look like 70s plastic flowers and some wonky crocuses. Not good.
    BTW many thanks for including me, slack blogger, in your blog roll. Mucho flattered.

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    1. My crocuses are wonky too! Is it the season or just generally wonky gardening?

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  9. I love your blogs, Elizabeth, because they always make me feel vigorous and determined, as if I had become an out of shape pullover they make me look respectable again and full of resolution. I did clear some nasturtium haulm on Sunday, prune three apple trees and replant the raspberry canes into a more military line. I also made a plan to cut back a self-knitted tangle of foliage that is attacking my roof and is a mixture of Wisteria, Clematis, Russian vine and Forsythia. For this I suspect I shall need one of your neck warmers as well as a good pair of secateurs. I suppose if you were really clever you could persuade plants to grow along 'needles' so they knitted themselves together in a proper cable stitch. What would they look like I wonder?

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    1. I am a bit stunned that any blog of mine makes you feel vigorous and determined. Are you quite sure it doesn't make you feel lax and sleepy? That is more the way it is here tonight.

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  10. Love those neck warmers, especially the first one.
    Its always good to see snowdrops appearing. Seems like fresh hope.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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    1. I love your phrase about fresh hope! That is it exactly. I could never be a galanthophile with a total obsession about tiny differences in snowdrop varieties but they have an emotional charge for me that lots of flowers don't have.

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  11. Your neckwarmers look lovely - I might have a go at one as I need to knit something at the moment! I had my first session of the year in the garden on Sunday - it's so good to get out there isn't it, but I don't ahve any snowdrops out yet :-(

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    1. I never thought I would see the day when I would understand your phrase "I need to knit something" but I do! It is bound to wear off in the spring but at the moment the sense of having something in my hands makes me feel good. How odd!

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  12. Wait..... you COUNT every single snowdrop blossom? Seriously? Do you keep a record from year to year? I must know more about this snowdrop counting.

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    1. Yup, must confess Marcheline that I do count them all. It began as a response to feeling that I had put all these snowdrops in and they were supposed to increase but I thought they weren't. I read on Veg Plottings blog about her annual count and I thought I would do it too. So far I have counted in 2009,10 and 11. 2012 count yet to take place as they are not all out yet! I know it's anal and loopy but it has proved to me that they are on the rise!

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  13. Things are beginning toi strat to make themselves felt in my garden too.It's time to have a peek even if it is a biot on the ocld side! V Envious of your cowl!

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    1. Cowls are truly easy TW! Would really recommend them as a place to start with knitting!

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  14. I think it might be a bit early for aconites even with this mild weather. It's good to get out into the garden again after being confined indoors. I'm commenting using the anonymous profile because there are problems with blogspot accepting comments from wordpress at the moment. Wellywoman

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    1. Thanks Wellywoman. I am relieved to find it is a bit early for aconites. It would pain me to have lost them already!

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  15. There's nothing peeking up through the earth here yet. We've had some miserable weather and as soon as it's light I'll be heading outside to see what damage the 110 km/hour winds have done to the trees.
    I've looked at the cowl on various sites and thought I'd like to give it a try - it looks complicated!

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    1. Honestly Pondside, I don't think you would find either complicated. The Moebius cowl is simply garter stitch and the only tricky thing is the casting on which has a great youtube video explanation. The cable one just a short scarf fastened together!

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  16. How interesting that I should be commenting right after dear Pondside, and that too from the same part of the globe!

    I wish I could knit like that. I also wish I had a garden like that. With the jungle of evergreens we have here, vegetation wise, it hardly feels winter here except the handful of naked maples by our patio. But they say the tulips are already in the farmer's market and I can't wait to get myself a bunch.

    P.S. How do I follow you? The clumsy tech woman that I am, I can't seem to find the button on your blog.

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  17. Hi Suman. I am delighted that you would like to follow! There is not the normal follow button but in the top right hand corner there should be a pen, a house and and an RSS subscribe button on the right edge. Hope that works for you!

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  18. Ooh! Elizabeth those cowls have got my knitting fingers itching. They are just lovely and I know one daughter who would be really pleased to have one. What you have yous started? ;-)

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    1. Cowls are fab and they grow so quickly!

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  19. Wow, that cabled cowl is amazing. My mind boggles at cabling and my mouse is always hovering over the vintage cabled cardis on etsy.

    I love the idea of a snowdrop count. The more there are, the closer we are to Spring, I suppose.

    Huge thanks for joining in, Elizabeth.

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  20. I am looking for the cowl pattern you posted (the bottom one). I made that a few years ago and cannot find the pattern anywhere (and the ravelry link doesn't work on your blog). If you have it, please post again!!

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