The Gardening Year – Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden

robin in ivy covered tree, garden birds, winter garden


31st December 2016: the end of the gardening year.

1st January 2017: the start of the gardening year.

With this weekend’s blog from Plews spanning both of these dates, the Gardening Year – Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden seemed an appropriate subject.

As a gardener, gardening teacher and garden designer I am frequently asked by non-gardeners what I do over the late autumn, winter and early spring.

Yes, it is in many ways a less busy time of the year for outdoor work, but there is still plenty to plan and to do. For example: –

  • spring flowering bulbs need planting;
  • vegetable beds need digging;
  • seed potatoes need to be ordered;
  • bare-root trees need planting;
  • apples and pear trees need to be pruned;
  • tender perennials are taken inside and looked after in greenhouses and cellars;
  • planting schemes for spring are planned;
  • new garden designs are discussed and created;
  • gardening lessons are given – both practical and theory;
  • raised beds to be built;
  • fencing to be repaired and replaced….

And that’s before I wander round my own garden or someone else’s, sniffing the winter flowering shrubs and admiring the topiary covered in frost. Coffee in one hand, notebook in the other, of course!

espresso coffee cup

If you believe that gardening begins in spring and ends in early autumn, you’re missing so much pleasure that your garden could give you.

garden design plans, design sketches, drawing tools, Plews Garden Design, hoteye photography

The gardening year begins with a dream, an anticipation, and follows through with hard work, rewarded with fruits and flowers.

We’ll follow the calendar year, and start at the beginning, on New Year’s Day. And find some tasks to do, quotes to amuse and photos to enjoy. Links to relevant blogs are within the text, and you’ll find further suggestions at the end.


Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden – Winter


Traditionally known as ‘the digging month’. Which to my mind has always seemed ironic, as it’s the month when gardeners are most likely to find hard frosted soil in the vegetable garden.

But if you are able to get into the garden and break push your garden spade into the soil –

To dig in one’s own earth, with one’s own spade, does life hold anything better?
Beverly Nichols

garden fork and garden spade in soil

And when you stop digging to rest your back, enjoy the sight of: –

The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun
Wallace Stevens

Alternatively, spend time in the potting shed, sharpening your garden tools.



Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.
­­John Boswell

The days are noticeably longer now. Winter aconites add a spark of sunshine yellow to misty frosty days.

snowdrops (Galanthus) and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) in winter flower border

There’s a rummaging around for empty egg boxes to make chitting potatoes an easier task. Well, I rummage, anyway. I’ve found seed potatoes roll around and damage their young shoots when placed in open trays.

chitting potatoes in egg boxes, potato tubers, first early potato type, duke of york variety, grow your own vegetables, gardening lessons, propagation, edible gardens

Some indoor seeds can be sown too. And the last of the overwintering vegetables harvested from the kitchen garden.


Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden – Spring


My heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils

It has been said that the March winds are necessary to encourage the trees to bend and flex their trunks and encourage the sap to rise and fill the dormant buds with new life.

Welsh Daffodil trumpet narcissus

Depending on whether we have a mild March or a wild March, affects how much in the way of outside gardening we can do. Generally speaking, in the UK we get most of our annual rainfall over the winter months. So March be drier, allowing us gardeners to get seedbeds ready.



If you have hens in your garden, this is when you’ll notice egg production really begins. Even if you only keep a couple of hens as pets, if they’re laying they will need the correct diet as it takes a lot of protein to keep laying eggs.

hens, acorn bank garden, cumbria, national trust

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. ­­
William Shakespeare

Seeds are sown, seedlings transplanted, tulips burst into vibrant display in between April showers. The Easter weekend is one of the busiest times of the year in garden centres.

pink viridifolia tulips, spring flowering bulbs

Fair-weather gardeners feel they might venture out in to the garden and join those of us who are already busy planning and planting.



There is nothing like the first hot days of spring when the gardener stops wondering if it’s too soon to plant the dahlias and starts wondering if it’s too late
Henry Mitchell

dahlia tuber shoots, propagation

There’s plenty of activity in the garden now – and not just from the gardener! If you have a pond, take time during a May evening to go and look for newts and frogs. They’re active at dusk, having snoozed during the day. Wildlife areas are easily incorporated into family gardens and are great for humans and beasts alike.

garden newts in palm of hand, Plews, garden wildlife, amphibians


Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden – Summer


June – Midsummer. The month with the longest days in the northern hemisphere. Which is just as well. If you thought May was a busy month in the garden, June out-busies it! Weeds and garden pests keep the gardener on full alert. And then there are flowers to deadhead, sweet peas to tie into their supports, strawberries to harvest…

I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border. I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error. Sara Stein

wildflower border, walled garden, poppies, daisies

A rule to remember when dealing with garden pests: if it is slow moving, stamp on it; if it is fast moving, leave it alone – it will probably kill something else.
Esme Boughey



A perfect summer’s day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing and the lawn mower is broken
James Dent

old petrol lawn mower, World War 2 garden shed, dig for victory display, Trengwainton, Cornwall, Cornish gardens

Come July, it can be a welcome relief to go away on holiday and let your neighbour deal with the demands of the garden on your behalf. Be generous though. Prepare your garden beforehand so it’s not all chores on your return. That makes it easier for your neighbour to maintain, too. And remember to offer them the garden produce as a thank you whilst you’re away. And maybe a nice bottle of wine on your return.



We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Abraham Lincoln

Traditional rose gardens were at their best in late June / early July. These days, modern repeat flowering roses enable us to enjoy scent and colour for many months. The rose is regularly voted as number one of the world’s favourite flowers. A fresco (wall painting) of a rose dating back to c 1500BC was found at the palace of Knossos in Crete.

Rosa Darcy Bussell, shrub rose, repeat flowering fruity fragrance, good for pots and hedges

With over 400 varieties of different types of rose, there’s a climbing rose to suit a shady north-east facing wall as well as a sun-loving hybrid tea. Annual pruning is not difficult if you know the type of rose you have.


Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden – Autumn


Gardens are not made by singing “Oh how beautiful” and sitting about in the shade
Rudyard Kipling

September is full-on harvest time; where your earlier hard work quite literally bears fruit. Apples, pears, autumn fruiting raspberries, runner beans, sweet corn, pumpkins…the list goes on.

apples lord lambourne

Nothing smells better than harvesting in your herb garden. You cannot help but be surrounded by sweet, spicy fragrances at every snip of your secateurs.

lavender stoechas and nepeta, perennial herbs

Oh and those dahlias we angsted about in May? They are now the stars of the herbaceous border – assuming the slugs didn’t eat them!




October’s poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter.
Nova S. Blair

Autumn us a second spring when every leaf is a flower
Albert Camus

For me, October in the garden sees the last gathering of the harvest and the beginning of the glory of deciduous foliage.

Rowan tree, mountain ash, sorbus acuparia, red berries

Trees are the longest living land species on this planet earth. They deserve our respect and admiration. Without trees, our air would not be fit to breathe.

Even small gardens can find room for a tree. I would suggest a cordon fruit tree if space is really tight. These patio sized trees will quite happily grow in a container. Imagine picking and eating your own sun-warmed peaches.



Harvest is over. Although there are still hardy crops that will stand through the winter. Swiss chard, for example, with its rainbow leaves will add a jewel-like feel to your winter vegetable patch.

rainbow swiss chard grown in rows, grow your own vegetables, edible gardens, cultivation

There’s work to be done. Gardening is largely about planning and preparation. Digging over borders and applying mulch or compost are important tasks.

The unmulched garden looks to me like some naked thing which for one reason or another would be better off with a few clothes on.
­­Ruth Stout


Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden – Winter (again)


Winter pruning of many deciduous trees and shrubs can begin once all the leaves have fallen. Not all should be pruned now. Flowering shrubs are generally pruned straight after they have finished flowering.

The vineyard country, russet, reddish, carmine-brown in this season.
A blue outline of hills above a fertile valley.
Czeslaw Milosz

grapes, vine, grow your own, edible gardens, perennial fruit, grow your own

Grape vines are pruned when fully dormant in December and January so they don’t ‘weep’.

Bare root trees, fruit bushes and roses begin to be delivered from specialist nurseries – early Christmas presents for gardeners. Hyacinths that have been grown from forced bulbs in September fill greenhouses with their powerful scent.


The Gardening Year – Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden

Of course, the gardening year never really starts or ends. It is one continuous, entwining circle. A succession of tasks and pleasures; where one plant dies and another grows up to take its place. A balance of planning for tomorrow (and next month) whilst living for today.

No two days are ever the same in your garden, and that’s one of the reasons gardeners are not bored. There’s always something to do, including taking time to look, listen and smell.

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
­­Mahatma Gandhi

Related Gardening blogs you may enjoy

Cold Weather Gardening – Questions and Answers
Why are there Changes to Your Garden Growing Season?
First Day of Spring and the Spring Equinox
Midsummer Gardens
Shakespeare – Midsummer Nights Dream – Garden Design Inspiration
Harvest Festivals, Autumn Equinox and Your Garden
Yule and Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice and Your Garden

garden arch with seats, arbour, pergola, climbing scented jasmine

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