December’s fierce frosts have X-rayed the countryside. Gone are the fleshy foliages of summer that screened the views and filled the verdant verges; only the bones remain. Black skeletons of trees, ink-jetted against a milky sun, brood over the mud-cracked fields.

There is little obvious cheer apart from the holly, the ivy and the great snowy clusters of wild clematis seedheads draped over dark hedges. The bones reveal the beauty of Nature’s architecture-the great boughs of oak contrast with the whippy branches of the ash and the smooth bark of the beech with both.

Having moved into our new house in April, only now can we appreciate the real structure of the garden. Many of the shrubs need pruning and reshaping, the bamboo has won me over and will be kept, but the lavender is a more difficult decision. It’s verging on the woody side and probably ought to be replaced, but will I be able to do it?

Then, there are the new additions: New Year will be spent submerged in gardening books searching for perfect climbers and espaliered apple trees that don’t mind a bit of shade. Planning a garden is one of the great treats of this time of year.

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