Here on the south coast of England, we rarely experience wintery conditions.  In particular, this area is especially mild.  I am not sure if it is true, but it feels like the Isle of Wight protects us from the worst of the winter weather.  It is almost as if the weather knows that the snow boundary starts at Winchester.  Most years, we hear that the rest of the country has had snow, but we see none of it.  Whilst it is lovely not having to suffer the inconveniences of snow, we do rather feel that we need seriously cold weather to kill off the insects that are not supposed to survive the winter.  There again we can usually over winter plants that would have no chance of survival in other parts of the country.

Well this year, we actually had a real winter.  It started just before Christmas when I found out one of the downsides of having paving and not grass.  The first hint of a problem was when I let the dogs out in the morning.  As they went out of the back door, I noticed Ruby (who was in the lead, as usual) slip.  Then I went to the patio door and noticed that slipping was the order of the day.  The back garden was a sheet of black ice.  What was apparently puddles of water on the paving had frozen overnight and there was nowhere that was safe to walk.  I admit that every time the dogs went outside, I watched to see how they fared.  If they slipped with their four legs for  stability, there was no way I was going to venture outside.   That little problem only lasted the day, but little did we know that we would have more winter to come.

The next day I ventured out into the garden and suddenly realised that I had forgotten to put the netball in the pond.  We do this to stop the pond freezing over and therefore to provide some air to the fish.  I seem to remember that fish can suffer from the tremors if the ice is broken so just put the ball on the surface and hoped that if there was a little thaw that the ball could do its job.  So, you may ask, why do we have a netball when most people use footballs?  Well, we tried a kid’s ball, but found that it was too light to do its job and then went in search of a decent ball.  The netballs were cheaper than footballs and still had the weight to do the job.  After a few winters in the pond, the ball is now starting to look a little worse for wear, just hope that I remember to replace it during the summer months. 

As is my practise, I managed to prune the wisteria on 1 January.  I was extremely lucky that it was a dry day and that the black ice had disappeared.  More on this can be found in “Up the Ladder“.

Then a couple of days later, we actually woke up to snow.  Not a lot here, maybe an inch or so, but many friends in the locality had six inches or more, and some, less than thirty miles away, had sixteen inches.  The weather was unusually cold for this part of the world, so the snow stayed for days.  During this period, I realised the meaning of the phrase from the carol – “deep and crisp and even”.   One of my friends remarked that my garden must look lovely in all the snow.  I suppose it might have if we had had more snow and if I had not had the dogs, but very quickly the garden was covered in paw prints.  On the very first morning, it was interesting to look out and notice that most of the traffic was on the patio and toward the pond, they hadn’t been to the pergola side of the garden.  But after a few days, they certainly had visited all areas of the garden. 

There was little that could be done in the garden.  All that I could do was wait for it to go.  At least this year we can be confident that all the bugs that should have been will have been killed off by the weather.  We will just have to wait until the spring to see which plants have managed to come throught the winter unscathed.