Winter is officially here

After all the excitement (and the frustration) of the past weeks as winter descended upon much of northern Europe, we know its winter. The winter solstice this Thursday marked the start of our coldest season of the year. Here in Berlin we have not seen much of it yet. The snow was modest and only briefly there, but also the temperatures have been modest, with barely dipping below the freezing point. That we thank cloud-laden grey skies.

Coleshill © Isabelle van Groeningen



It is with great envy that I have been seeing photographs from England showing crisp sunny white landscapes; not snow-white but frost-white.  Magical mornings where the finest twig or even thinner-than-hair grass seeds suddenly become visible, as their otherwise almost imperceptible structure is thickly lined with glistening ice crystals. Berlin has them rarely, as we tend to have less humidity in the air, which I greatly regret as they are really special.


Otherwise oft dreary winter landscapes are suddenly turned into magical winter wonderlands. For these moments it is important to leave as many seedheads standing in the borders as they then take on a whole new role in the garden. They shed their “dead twiggy” image and suddenly show how beautifully crafted they really are. One realises how incredibly precise these complex structures such as the seedhead of a teasel are, based on Fibonacci’s sequence, creating the golden spiral.

Winter beauty © Isabelle van Groeningen

Winter beauty

Gardening in winter

Fagus sylvatica frosted © Isabelle van Groeningen

Fagus sylvatica frosted

As German winters tend to be much harsher than what I was used to in my previous lives, many here consider it the period during which nothing gets done outside and people retreat into the warm indoors and hibernate till spring surprises them. As long as there is no hard frost, there is no reason not to carry on gardening. I still have some Foxgloves waiting to be planted as well as a few more bulbs that urgently need to go in. I am hoping that the weather stays, as I want to move several trees and shrubs in our garden in Belgium. I also plan to do some pruning and big jobs like turning the compost heap or clearing scrub or brambles are perfect for chilly winter days as the activity keeps you warm. The rewarding feeling of coming indoors into the warmth after an active gardening session is just wonderful.

So enjoy this festive season. Do spend time planning the next gardening season, but give yourself also time in the garden, even if it is only for an hour or so – it’s worth wrapping up warm for!

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas. I will be back with my latest thoughts in the new year and the Garden Academy will re-open its gates after its much-needed Christmas break on the 9th January!

Frosty landscape © Isabelle van Groeningen

Frosty landscape