Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
THE juggernaut that drives the commercial Christmas has squashed for many what the season is all about. The whole purpose of Christmas has been dwarfed by so many distractions that instead of it being a stress free time, it builds up unbelievable pressure until the final day arrives and then the anticlimax follows a few days later.
Nobody is going to have what they know as a normal Christmas this year. We have a serious virus to keep away and with it comes the opportunity to get back to basics and make it a memorable time for all our ‘dearest and nearest’. One of our best Christmas times was when most of our region lost electricity for a few days due to a sudden storm. People just rallied round their neighbourhood to make sure everyone was safe, and at home we all helped to make it a cosy place and had a great time chatting, playing games and making fun things from whatever materials we could find.
We know that putting up a Christmas tree is a relatively recent tradition to these islands, having been started by Prince Albert in Victorian times and now it is part and parcel of our essential decorations. The tree question is divided between having an artificial or real one, the merits of which have been debated to boredom. It is simply down to personal choice and what suits that particular home or situation. Real trees, in my opinion, have that living magic which permeates the house and each year we carefully choose one with character. One year, a visitor commented that it was no wonder we had the best tree ourselves as we had the pick of them, which pleased us so much as it was the one that was run over by the tractor and ended up the shape of a banana in two parts stuck together!
There are a number of variables when it comes to Christmas trees and at this stage all the old fashioned shedding types have been phased out, leaving a number of non-shed fir varieties commonly available. There is a small increasing demand for potted trees up to 1.5m high (5’) but they are a hit and miss as only seldom do they survive from year to year. Another nice touch is to plant a slow growing Christmas tree (varieties of Abies delavayi, koreana, nordmanniana and procera) near the house where lights and decorations can be attached and all to be enjoyed to and from the house.
There was a time when outdoor lights, life sized animals and maybe Santa on the roof was only seen on television and we could never imagine that it would appear here one day. Now, thanks mainly to the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period they appeared overnight in a multitude of houses but there were a few households ahead of the pack and one was on the road to Tramore from Waterford where people used to stop and admire the display. The recession put a halt to many of these colourful displays as the electricity bills rang like jingle bells.
I have noticed that the coronavirus has changed many people’s attitudes to life and this enforced stoppage gave many people a chance to revaluate their way of thinking and in some cases change their ideas and what they want. I do hope this Christmas that people take great care of themselves and others close by and enjoy quiet moments, drawing what nature can give in energy, strength and hope for better times ahead.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Our grass needs a cut but is not overgrown and there have not been enough dry days to get the mower out. That day will come and we are ready to abandon everything else to get that cut in, and after that we can leave it alone until March. A few times it has not worked out and we then have a major task trying to get it back into shape in spring.
Garden activities are now limited to keeping paths clean, putting the last of the leaves in the compost heap and pruning of oversized plants back into a manageable shape and, where possible, using some for indoor decoration.