Belmont House
A magical venue for holidays and events

The return of the light by Wendy Scott

February 1st 2021

The garden is in stasis, under frost and snow; clear skies and sunshine, enormous moon, diamond air. Plants wait, sheltered if they’re lucky under enough snow to keep them cosy. The first bulbs sent up green spears before the weather changed; now they are immobile except for the snowdrops, whose flowers, delicate but tough, unfurl slowly, infinitely welcome sign of life returning.

The sun brings solar warmth to the Palace, and the north facing side of the roof has never lost its snow blanket, so the inside temperature, though hardly balmy, remains frost free. There is a tiny trickle of fresh air on the south side, where one window, permanently ajar, keeps the bay tree in the back corner free from any trouble with black mould. The geranium cuttings are so far surviving. More exciting is the emergence of tiny green shoots on the bits of twig I shoved into pots sometime last autumn. Impossible to tell what they were, at first, but yesterday some of the shoots had progressed enough to be recognised as fuchsia, the white flowering one, a treasured gift from a friend. When it is big enough, one is destined for the house wall where the purple leaved elder became the sole casualty of last year’s reharling (nobody’s fault, it alone of all the toughies there could not just retreat underground when the scaffolding arrived).

The rounded leaves of lemon balm (Melissa) are emerging beside the raspberries. We thought we had dug it all out, it had got too big there. I chopped it in two, planted one piece outside (don’t remember where, a surprise come the voar), the other half made a fragrant potful. Now ready to be halved again; lots of aromatic pots are a plus in garden sitooteries or by the seat. So beneficent is nature that a garden can restock from its own resources.

The blackbirds have been in the Palace; there are lumps of compost all over the path where they were tossed by these cheerful gutsy birds. Wrens come in too, but they don’t go in for deep digging. I don’t mind birds in the Palace except when the rasps are fruiting. They keep down on insects and spout on my chair cushions. Live and let live.

Looking through the Palace windows I can see life stirring – honeysuckle buds on sheltered branches, and best of all, auriculas green and vigorous in their snowy pots. There is such pleasure to be had in the view from the warm inside. When we moved into our present house I designed the garden so that from the most used rooms we looked into the heart of flowers, at this time of year a foraging area for birds. I never understand why people build new expensive houses and appear not to consider the view from their kitchen window, often far more necessary than the obligatory enormous picture window in the sittingroom. No view as you work or drink tea at the table, or lie ill in bed. Our gardens are healing places for body and soul. If we cannot see them easily from our houses we are losing a major source of everyday wellbeing. That’s easiest to comprehend in the quiet months of midwinter, when the bones of the garden are most apparent, and the demands it may make upon its creator theoretical rather than practical.