wolf moon short story, banner, marie shallcross, plews potting shed, gardening writer

The Wolf Moon in Your Garden

It was the Mid-winter month of January. The fires celebrating the Winter Solstice were just a memory. As were the feasts where food was piled so high it threatened to topple over and cover the revellers with juices for the tasty roast meats. So much food, there was enough surplus thrown out to feed a whole pack of hungry wolves. And urban foxes and feral cats and the ever-present sewer rats.

On the edges of town, the gardens began to merge into the fields. There was more space, more trees and hedges, more sky to look at. And a subtle change in the nature of the visiting wildlife.

In a corner of the kitchen garden a hedgehog slept in a pile of semi-composted leaves. The silver delights of a starry January night were not for him. In the shadow of the potting shed a black cat was perched quietly on a water butt, watching over his domain and waiting for a call to supper. He stiffened, whiskers twitching. There was something in the air: not a fox; nor a dog. But a silent wraith encroaching on his kingdom. A predator.

A door opened and light spilled into the garden, breaking his trance. Almost before his name was called, he was streaking through the rows of winter cabbages. On the doorstep he paused, the thing was closer now, but his feline senses couldn’t recognise what it was. He didn’t have time to work it out as he was scooped up and taken into the warmth of the house.

It was early yet for a night in January. But cold. Darkness came later in the afternoon than in December. But the cold was gaining strength as it always did at this time of year. A fine sunny day with near cloudless skies meant a frosty night. Out on the fields the rime was already dusting the bare earth with silver. A grey shadow wove through the woodland edge coming ever closer to the suburban gardens.

Within the confines of the kitchen garden, sheltered by beech hedges and the house, the fingertips of frost had not yet crept.

The insulated greenhouse sheltered those tender plants beloved of the gardener: lemon trees and orange trees in terracotta pots; scented leaved pelargoniums; fuchsias; salvia and lemon verbena cuttings taken the previous summer and autumn sown sweet peas. Warmly tucked up beneath a fleecy covering as the gardener had the greenhouse heater on a timer switch.

Beneath the beech hedge, snowdrops, those delicate January milk flowers, were just beginning their blooming. During the day, their soft white flowers contrasted with the purple hellebores that grew alongside them. More snowdrops snuggled against the sarcococcca where it filled a shadier spot by the potting shed. The scented flowers a burst of pleasure at each winter trip down the garden path.

A full moon rose. The Wolf Moon of mid-winter, ice-rimmed.

In the hen coop there was a stirring of feathers. A silver slither of light caught the wire fence of the run, setting it to gleam brightly.

Under the belt of trees sheltering the garden a shadow rippled.

The light of the moon caught her coat as she leapt over the fence, leaving it glistening like shards of glass. Landing silently on the path, she shook, and icicles sprayed out from her fur like water from a fountain. A beautiful and deadly beast, well-nourished, for the season that is lean for others was a feast to her and prime for hunting. She was a creature of the moon and frost: a winter wolf.

She padded along the paths, stopping to nose at broccoli standing tall in the border and the vulnerable young leaves of autumn planted garlic. Wherever she touched ice spread, crackling, across the delicate leaves.

This predator was not omnipotent. Translucent and mocking in the light of the Wolf Moon, the greenhouse stood defiant of her, the plants clearly visible safe and warm and away from her destructive touch. She padded up to it and let out a soft growl, her breath sending a dancing pattern of frost across the panes.

Reaching the herb garden had brought her closer to the house and the hens. Her head turned towards the coop as a flutter of feathers and a soft cluck disturbed the silent night air. Padding closer to easy prey, her soft paws coated the ground in a dusty ice. A sudden deep bark from the house gave her pause. Her teeth bared and she turned, tearing a large branch from the rosemary bush beside her in frustration. With a great shake of her thick mane, ice flashed through the air to smother the herb garden with a flickering frost.

A piercing, metallic whistle cut through the night air. The wolf raised her head and howled briefly in return, acknowledging the call. With deceptive speed the wolf loped down to the end of the garden and soared over the hedge. She grinned and turned her head down the row of comfortable suburban gardens, enveloping them in her freezing breath.

Across the fields she raced towards a tall, gangling figure, cloaked against the biting cold.

The house door opened, and light spilled into the garden. A German Shepherd Dog bounded out, barking.

As the pair in the field turned to enter the woods, a voice could be heard from the house, following the dog into the garden:

“Do hush, I think it was Jack and his dog… Brr, a hard frost tonight to go with the Wolf Moon. Come on in now…good dog.”



What is the Wolf Moon in Your Garden?

The first full moon after the Winter Solstice is called the Wolf Moon. The Anglo Saxons called January the Wolf Month as it was a time when the beasts would often come into the villages in search of food as the weather got colder.

It is true that January, as the middle of the three winter months is often the coldest, although not the darkest. Gardeners can be lulled by mild days and nights before Christmas. If they have not protected their edible plants and tender ornamentals it can be a nasty shock to find the damage a frost can cause. The effect is not only on the immediate plants for food, but on those needed to fill the hungry gap coming in February and March. These days, we are most of us cushioned from this lack of food in late winter and early spring. Ironically, because of greater diversity in food preservation, including freezers…

In 2019 the Wolf Moon on January 21st is also a Blood Moon and a Lunar Eclipse.

Whether your garden survives the visit of the Wolf Moon and her frosty breath or not, do please get in touch with Plews if we can help you with Garden and Planting Designs, Garden Consultancy or Gardening Lessons.

And for further gardening advice and inspiration, check out Plews Potting Shed blogs, including the selection below and our monthly Tipsheet  – You could come and find us on Instagram  Pinterest and Facebook too.


A few Winter Gardening Blogs from the award winning Plews Potting Shed

Snowy Winter Gardens
Cold Weather Gardening – Questions and Answers
The Winter Solstice and Your Garden
12 Design Ideas for Your Winter Garden
Your Greenhouse Plants Winter Checklist

purple sage, salvia officinalis purpurea, ornamental edible garden, kitchen garden, herb garden