Groundhog Posted on January 1, 2021

I have to eke out the few jobs there are to do in this little garden at this time of year. Plant one plant, pot on one pot, prune one bush. Because each time I go out and feel the clammy air and a spot of rain on my pate I tingle with the pleasure of being among plants – and I don’t want to squander tingles.

So today it was cutting the leaves off a soon-to flower hellebore, tying in the daphne odora that is leaning forward and blocking the view, washing a pot and saucer for a plant I’ll be bringing indoors tomorrow. Tomorrow I shall pick some remaining dead leaves out of the border, clean some grubby clay saucers and discourage the ivy shoots springing from high on the wall. Fiddly stuff, I admit, but hands-on, out in the cold, and in direct contact with nature.

Covid confinement has enforced routine to a degree I have not encountered since ….., school, I suppose. True, when I’ve been in the throes of writing a book all lesser things are pushed aside and life can settle into just sitting to scribble. The present daily routine, though, is not focussed like this, nor does it bring a sense of progress towards a goal.

It’s not quite groundhog day but the same little movements have a way of becoming mechanical, from reaching out of bed for my specs and my ipad to read The Times, to shaving (left cheek, then right, then chin, upper lip…) to breakfast (yoghurt, blueberries, granola, put teabag in cup, take pills with orange juice, finally, lick the marmalade spoon.) Then out to the greenhouse, check the rain gauge, read the overnight temperatures, pick off fading flowers and droopy leaves, fill the watering can from the cistern, feel the compost in the pots, open the greenhouse light one notch….. A wilting shoot can give me something to worry about, and a new flower bud is an event.

Hugh’s Gardening Books


Trees was first published in 1973 as The International Book of Trees, two years after The World Atlas of Wine….

Hugh’s Wine Books

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book

I wrote my first Pocket Wine Book in 1977, was quite surprised to be asked to revise it in 1978,…

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The International Dendrology Society (IDS)