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Well the clocks have changed and I have just returned from a walk, with four paws in tow, on a fine frosty morning taking time to enjoy the trees in their almost naked splendour against the blue sky. I do like this time of year when in a few more days the leaves will all be down and the herbaceous borders will have been nipped by the frost exposing an architectural forest of stems which in time will become a winter haven for insects, especially spiders. Never overly fastidious in my own garden I again decide to leave cutting them down until late January at the earliest in the hope that we will have lots of webs covered in rime on other mornings like this.

Winter in the garden I often feel is a time for reflection, planning and rearranging as well as relaxing in the armchair with a good gardening book and scribble pad nearby to jot down the names of new plants I want to acquire and experiment with. Two particular favourites of mine at present are Sowing Beauty – Designing Flowering Meadows from Seed by James Hitchmough easily understood, it details an inspiring and revolutionary way of creating ecologically based plantings. Superbly illustrated it has given me a lot to think about for my next garden. Another joy filled with innovative planting ideas and interesting plants is Planting A New Perspective by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury; I just love the way they use plants to create living tapestries. I cannot wait to try Kirengeshoma palmata again and Eupatorium maculatum ‘Snowball’ for the first time.

Until then I will have to satisfy myself with the delights of the winter border including Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ with its scented golden spider like flowers ideal for cutting and bringing indoors. Then there is the delightful orange seed heads of Iris foetidissima, an old and often maligned favourite as the flowers in summer are a poor dull purple but in winter it is a joy to behold especially if it snows. We must not forget the hellebores now available in a myriad of colours and the coloured green and red stems of the dogwoods, they do look wonderful set against the low winter sunlight plus the scented winter flowering Viburnum x bodnantense hybrids such as ‘Charles Lamont’, ‘Dawn’ and ‘Deben’. Who said ‘winter in the garden is dull’. Never! With the right plants its simply magic and all followed by winter aconites and of course the snowdrops, not long to wait for those little heralds of spring.

I do like a good story and with that in mind I am really looking forward to our 2018 season when we will begin working in partnership with the Scottish Story Telling Centre in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, as part of our contribution to the Year of Young People. It is great to be working with Donald Smith again especially as his enthusiasm is infectious like that of the storytellers themselves who have agreed to work with us across the country. I cannot wait to hear what tales will be told and see the growth that comes from our combined energy as we seek to inspire new audiences through the development of a new voice for plants, gardens and gardeners. We will bring you more information on this early in the new year as we complete the arrangements and include them in the guidebook.

I must take a moment here to thank our office team for all the hard work they have put in during the last few months to finish the upgrading of the database and deliver a refreshed and even more user friendly look to the guidebook; we are very fortunate to have such a strong team in Terrill, Hazel and Imogen.

Our Trustees have also been busy working on a series of governance matters to make sure that we are compliant and properly prepared for a training session in January 2018 from our specialist charity solicitors. I look forward to updating you on that activity in person at the conference on April 10th next year once it is completed.

However, before you hang up your tools for a winter break over the festive season I just want to say a very special thank you for all the effort you have made to support Scotland’s Gardens in 2017. Remember it is you plus your friends and families that make our community what it is. Without all of you we could not and would not function, the gift of your time this year and the promise to do so again next year is the best Christmas present I could have. I wish you a warm and safe winter with just enough frost to keep the bugs and beasts away and heal the soil after the delights of winter digging; all followed by a Healthy and Happy New Year. I look forward to meeting some of you in 2018 and hearing your stories as I get out and about.

Best wishes

Happy Gardening –

‘Be it snaw, sleet or Jack Frost, thars nocht lik a breath of winter fresh air tae mak ye hail an hairty’

David Mitchell

Chair

12th November 2017