The Advent season
– auf Deutsch lesen – It is that time of year again where much of the garden centre is being wrapped up and brought indoors for the wintertime. Each year I find it hard to see our plant-sales area become emptier and emptier, as the last plants are sold, and the others given a cosy home for the winter months. In recent years we have been extremely fortunate that the winters were extremely mild, but our first winters (2008-9 and 2009-10) were extremely hard and long and caused considerable damage to many vulnerable plants.
What is left of the perennials moves into one of the greenhouses and joins the freshly potted irises and peonies. The remainder of the roses, fruit, trees and shrubs are tucked in between the greenhouses or shelter under the large conifers that mark our boundary with our neighbours. We pack leaves and straw in amongst the pots to give them a cosy insulating layer like a big winter duvet. By the end of next week, the space will be filled with nice fresh Christmas trees, which Andreas Parshaw, one of our gardeners, went to select personally in the Saarland this autumn.
The start of the advents season
As heart-warming compensation for this annual loss, we turn our attention to the coming festive season and re-arrange and decorate the garden academy for the start of advent. This is always a week of hard work for everybody, as big plants get moved, furniture is shifted about, every corner is swept and dusted, chandeliers hung, carpets laid and of course every space is re-decorated.
This year is different. The usual euphoric jolly atmosphere that hangs over the Academy has been missing as if we are in mourning. I suppose we are. The Café is closed, only offering coffee and cake to-go on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All our wonderful decoration plans have been put on hold. We have missed the interaction with café staff as they normally lend a helping hand. This is a week where everybody gets involved. Even our garden designers are out there helping with the decoration.
As we prepare for Christmas, we already plan Christmas for the following year. The theme is always fixed well ahead, so that over the year we can look out for appropriate items that will fit in with the theme. This year it is Santa’s home: Am Norpol 1. The Seminar room has been redesigned as his private living room with cosy sofas, rugs and chequered curtains. The entrance area of the glasshouse shop is a snowy white landscape. Outside, by the entrance, his red sledge awaits its next outing. All areas have been kept spacious and open, so people can keep at a safe distance.
As in the past years, we have again set up a pop-up floristry section where our team is busy binding wonderful flower bunches and making stunning wreaths.
The inspiration for the decoration is all around us: the beautiful fruits stems, seedheads and leaves that nature offers us at this time of year.
Whether you just put a colourful wreath with a candle on a table, hang up something beautiful to greet you as you stand outside the front door, or place a big advents wreath with four big fat candles on the coffee table, it all brightens up this time of year..
Luminous red and green twigs of willow or dogwood, sculptural seed heads of alliums, carrot, poppies and linen, colourful fruits of cotoneaster, crab apples and of course rose hips, as well as the more traditional dried citrus fruits, cinnamon bark and cones form pine trees and other conifers are all used in the decoration. Many of these materials we have been harvesting in the borders.
The central corridor
The central corridor is kept free and airy with impressive orchid displays, houseplants and the traditional poinsettias. We have kept it simple and airy on purpose, so that it does not get too full of people jostling past each other.
As an alternative way, we have created an additional covered walkway in front of the greenhouses, where you can browse and look for plants that will look good during the coming cold months.
Lighting up the darkness
I love the atmosphere at the Garden Academy at this time of year. The lit-up covered walkway and the stunning acer lit up so you can really appreciate its wonderful stems. the glitzy central corridor with its red carpet and elegant chandeliers. Fairy lights in trees, and the promise of many candles.
Make yourself a beautiful home this season
Bring in colour, warmth, light and the heavenly scent from flowers. Take time for home-baking and afternoon tea. Make it homely, like Father Christmas has. Only one more month to go before the days start getting longer again!