SONY DSCA zephyr caresses my cheeks, closed eyes tremble, eager to peer into the clear sky filled with chattering swallows and Amazons … ?


Clack clack – fractured celluloid sensations

My foraging mind returns to the moment.

Back resting against the chunky, flaking bark of a giant Scot’s Pine. Rubber coated gloves still holding a handful of wet leaves. High above in the beautiful canopy I watch as sharp sunlight flashes through the branches, performing a fitful dance to the uneasy tune of an ominous north easterly gale.

Fingertips numb. Knees soaked. Summer callouses shiver against my wrists.

Early afternoon and the daylight is fading. Those last rays of an unwilling sun only catch at the higher branches, soon to be snuffed out by advancing clouds. I can smell snow in the air, it’s a curious, odourless, fresh smell and one to be feared. Instinct tells me to step up the pace.

SONY DSCI throw the handful of leaves into the bin, walk briskly back onto the lawn and study the clouds over the summit of Helvellyn. Experience assures me that I can cram in another hour of leaf collection. Though finishing the job to perfection with a leafblower will be an impossible task in this gusting wind.  Every hour worked is a bonus to stay afloat during this toughest of occupations…professional gardening.

Most folk imagine gardening to be a relatively easy job. They erroneously assume it’s an exercise in supping tea and snipping the heads off a few spent flowers in sun drenched flower borders. Truth be told I’ve never gone onto a normal job and sat with a warming mug of steaming chai in my hands and contemplated my navel. Mostly it’s a snatched swig on some tepid, long abandoned offering or risking life and palette by gulping scalded tea before heading back to a gardener’s world of swift decisions and application.

That said I love gardening and see myself as a lucky human to be allowed the pleasure of working outdoors and tending lots of beautiful plants. If I had my way everybody would have the chance to escape the grisly environs of office superficiality and spend a day or two each week pottering around on their ‘plot’.

However …*drum roll*… I struggle with my chosen path in winter. Even our temperate British winters can be cripplingly harsh. As a self employed individual I am frequently tempted to pull that duvet back over my head and say. ‘Not today Josephine.’ Workable daylight hours for a specs wearer, are even more restricted.  Cutting back spent perennials with bare hands is a risky procedure in the gloaming, which seems to last from a protracted dawn, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and dusk, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on a cloudy day. I can’t see what the heck I am doing and run the risk of digit amputation.

So how do we tackle these difficult and undesirable periods that occupy significant part of a professional gardener’s calendar?

If you are male I would suggest getting a mistress. Probably a wonderful way to pass most of the day. OH if you are reading this…(more fool you!) I can’t afford one J So I adopt a very different policy and it goes a little as follows :-

Alarm rings approx. 6.30 and I say to myself. ‘Porridge with a dosh of Golden Syrup. A cup of Rosie Lea and a quick scan of Twitter.’ Feet up for an hour and talk bollocks with my Twitty mates. (Honest, I luv every single one of you)

SONY DSCDressed and fed, I haul back the curtains and recoil in horror. Traipse downstairs and ask the cat what his opinion might be. He invariably raises one eyebrow if I am lucky, sighs, pulls his front paws around his face and hopes I will go away. No interpretation needed  ‘It’s effing cold and wet bonzo!’

We now approach the point of no return, a daily tipping point.

I understand that outside the treble glazed, fully insulated door is a sharp blast of reality. If I open it I have to man-up and bloodySONY DSC well get on with earning a crust. If I don’t open it I have to live with myself for a few hours and seek out some means to justify being a wimp, trust me on this one folks, I can find a thousand ways of justifying my right to remain in the house.

So here goes…don’t even consider looking through the window in the door, just manfully put your reluctant paw on the handle and open it. Once outside don’t think too much about what you are doing…open your work vehicle and start driving to your first job.

On the way to the job crank up the heater full blast, and keep yourself so hot you would prefer to throw off your skin. This creates a false sense of comfort and makes the inevitable opening of the vehicle door less troublesome.

Never listen to the News. Pay attention! The news in Winter is loaded with misery….’Pay more, minister tells pizza boss! – Briton admits terror charges in US! – One oven death victim ‘hidden from view’ ?? and whatever you do, please don’t look at or listen to a weather report…OMG no…don’t do this!

If you do make it thus far, have a plan of action for the job but never, never, never get out of the cabin without lots of warm and waterproof clothing to shroud you from the misery of the weather. I mean this seriously! The weather, and I know you North American citizens are likely to say…’He’s such a sap!’ is likely to be the main reason you will become unemployed, don ‘t pay it any heed. Honestly guys…it really is possible to work outdoors in winter in the UK. You have to possess the appropriate mental framework.

If you are warm and emotionally committed you will be capable of working in the worst conditions. Get your gear out of the vehicle and start work…that’s it. Once started you will continue unless you are as old as me, until daylight tapers out. Stop then and only then.

The KissWhen you get to that stage think………………….mulled wine…..steaming hot shower. Think…. loving arms of my mistress…lol Hey, guys, I’m a trashed gardener and need some pleasures in life 😉

No matter what you thought at the beginning of the day, you will be immensely satisfied to force your way out , do battle with the elements and come home with a few more quid.

Happy gardening.