Furthermore And Also: Short Days Challenge

Last autumn I had wondered what on earth I’d write about during the winter. It is easier when the garden is ablaze with life and colour. It is easier when there’s lots happening. I had thought that winter would be very tricky. I could not have been more wrong. Furthermore and also, the past two months have given me a dreamy insight into my garden and my appreciation of it.
Christmas has come and gone. I have always liked Christmas, and this year was different. It occurred to me only last week that, for those of us in the mid-northern latitudes, it has been created to occur just at the perfect time of the year. It is mid-winter, yet it is exactly four days after the equinox. Things are on the up. Farmers are looking ahead to spring and animal birth. Gardeners, like myself, are looking ahead to warmer weather, longer days and new plant life. Indeed, there will be rough weather ahead during the months of January and February (and perhaps March/April too, if last year is anything to go by). It was a tough time for gardeners, farmers and many others. Ireland nearly ran out of bread. Yet, just a very short ten weeks later Ireland baked in the long drought. The toaster was set to crispy. I cannot remember warm weather like the summer of 2018. It was astonishing. The spirit of the nation was lifted. It remained lifted despite a prolonged abortion referendum here in Ireland, or perhaps because of it. It remained lifted until such time as Ireland beat the All-Blacks in mid-November, and on a personal level, it remained lifted as I began my daily Short Days Garden Challenge. I wrote about it twice recently (here and here), so this final 2018 article completes the trilogy.

Thursday, December 20th: The geranium cuttings from mid-November are doing well. They look healthy, and likely the underground rooting system is underway. I will keep a close eye on these over the coming 6-8 weeks to ensure they thrive. Even in the glasshouse, there is the possibility of frost damage. I noticed yesterday that the thermometer (which gives maximum and minimum readings) recorded 1.1 degrees recently. The glasshouse is entirely free of draughts, yet I will remain vigilant. Páraig the Vigilant! If there are very cold nights ahead I may bring these delicate babies indoors.
Lovely weather here in Ireland today. I got some last-minute Christmas gifts sorted and enjoyed my usual full Irish breakfast. Not in that order, of course. Hope all my friends here are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas time. It can be a lonely time for some, so try to look in on an elderly neighbour, or simply spread a contagious smile. Little things can mean a lot.

Lookin’ good there

Friday, December 21st: it’s mid-winter, Solstice day. Warm sunshine before the rain arrived. It’s very mild too. I spent a short while doing a few small jobs, such as topping up all the daffodil pots with a shallow layer of gravel to keep weeds away and a very tiny pinch of bone meal to feed them. Also generous scattering of fertiliser around the roses. Come summer solstice in June I’ll be glad that I fed them. Having spent my few minutes in the winter garden, it was then time to go wife-shopping. How very necessary, and yet exciting. My wife rewards me so much more than my garden, so fair’s fair.
Have you anything/anyone more important than your garden?

Shortest day, sunshine and grey
Saturday, December 22nd: Here’s another shot of one of my favourite plants, Nandina Firepower, as it changes colour through the cold weather. It certainly brightened my journey this morning as I went for a very short walk before breakfast.
Afterwards, I cycled with Marion and other friends in dense fog to our favourite Summerhouse in Lismore for coffee and mince pies. This lovely bike-friendly cafe is very aptly named! The fog was very heavy but the mince pies were deliciously light and flavoursome. Finally, I returned to view the lovely Nandina amid mid-afternoon watery sunshine once again. I consider this a really good day, and a few Guinness with my friend later were very pleasant too. 
Nandina Fire Power again
Sunday, December 23rd: Today’s winter garden is as much my Sunday biking as anything. After a damp mucky ride I needed to wash the bike and overshoes. As I strolled down the garden to the glasshouse I noticed that the flashing lights on the heel of the shoes were still on. It’s all about being as visible as possible on the roads. Together with front and rear lights and an extra one on my helmet I know that I’m doing my best to be safe.
In this case the gardening connection is loose, but it can clearly be seen that the two grey pots act as a perfect bike stand, while the tiny tip of emerging narcissus can just be seen top right. You may need to go to Specsavers to get a clear view.
Good to combine two of my passions
It’s there, but barely visible, just below the centre in the pot.
Monday, December 24th: 

Tis Christmas Eve and Santa Claus
will bring his gifts tonight.
We’ll hang our stockings by the bed,
And wait until it’s light.
I wonder what he’ll bring for you?
And what he’ll bring for me?
Ah! There! It’s no use wondering,
You’ll have to wait and see!

An old man said to me, won’t see another one
Tuesday, December 25th: Happy Christmas from Dungarvan. It’s that wonderful time of the year. The fuchsia is still in leaf. Normally, it would be bare many weeks ago but we have had only three frost nights and it lingers on beyond its time.

Fuchsia non-denudendum

Returning to an attempt to connect gardening and my cycling, I received the most exceptional gift today. Not the love of the two great women in my life, which is hugely important and unconditional. My daughter gave me a miniature 5cm replica of me on my bike. Paraig ar a rothar! Complete with beard, exact Ridley bike replica, Fulcrum wheels and new DCC gear. Uphill drag about 2% but the Lady Belle (my favourite Guinness watering hole) is not far away! Go raibh maith agat, a stór.

Created by #minifigurescenes
Wednesday, December 26th: this time I am visiting Ballinacourty, Cappagh to view things from a different angle, and I come away with an extended wishlist.

Joan’s garden in Cappagh
Until next year, see ya around!
Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves winter, summer and cycling in both. Furthermore and also, he likes Christmas, sherry trifle and an uplifted spirit, but not essential last-minute wife-shopping.