CALENDAR GIRL Planning for new beginnings…

On Christmas Day once I have unwrapped that familiar, annual, large, flat, square, present, I can hardly wait for the 1st of January to arrive, so that I can unhook last year’s calendar from its wooden board, and replace it with a bare-paged new one. All those wonderful blank squares associated with a date that, as of yet, has nothing planned for it. There’s an anticipation of writing something fun in many of the squares – a trip somewhere perhaps, dinner with friends, a massage, a decent film at the local cinema, sending the winning recipe for the Queen’s platinum pudding.


For 2022 I have a lop-eared Rabbit calendar. I’ve never owned a rabbit – lop-eared or otherwise, but their pictures make me smile and feel warm and buzzy. I study each month’s rabbit – smiling at one with a massively fluffy double chin: one with really long fanned-out whiskers: the ‘oh no, not another calendar’ expression in another’s eyes, or another in a ridiculously cute pose trying to climb out of a pink laundry basket. Reluctantly, on Boxing Day, after having looked at all the rabbits once more, I put it over to one side until the new year arrives.


Somewhere between the 1st and 3rd of January, I excitedly take my new calendar over to the kitchen table, open it, pour a cup of coffee, choose a pen, smile at January’s sandy-coloured rabbit, and start writing: reminders – book hotel for Ben’s wedding, apply for Wimbledon tickets: appointments – Jan 15th 8am dentist – ow, Jan 28th Vietnamese restaurant 8pm: others – Pilates classes: tennis training: research criteria for recipe for Queen’s platinum pudding, bla bla bla. Then, after noting all the currently known events, the real fun begins.


Real fun? I am a professional gardener in SW France and gardens can wake up really early here, so I need to be ready: lists, and a calendar are my saviour. Christmas 2021 was the warmest ever recorded in France, Eurasian cranes have already started flying overhead on their way North, roses and plum trees are budding, solitary bees are out foraging, and I’ve passed one hedgehog flattened on the road. Nature is emerging from winter dormancy way too early, so I must get my skates on to organise the work in all my gardens before I miss what is becoming an ever-shrinking window of opportunity. Just as the blank squares on my new calendar, a garden in January offers nothing but promise of beautiful things to come. Although work in a garden is pretty much the same from year to year, each January offers a chance for new beginnings – and now is the time to plan them.


Shall I divide that clump of snowdrops once they’re over, and where shall I re-plant them?

What am I going to do with the enormous stand of Bamboo at Chateau Marouatte?

Ask the farmer if I can have some of his beautifully rotted cow manure.

Jan 17th, buy more Bordeaux mix and spray the peach trees to prevent leaf curl.

Jan 19th, take mower tyres at Chateau Burée to be mended.

Check the horticultural fleece is still in place on outside tender perennials.

Start to prune vines – wisteria, campsis, ornamental grape – all gardens.

Shall I divide the kniphofia and re-plant them in the gap in the main flower bed?

Shall I grow sprouts again this year? And which other veg?


And on it goes. Ah, January, I love the planning of new beginnings. New hope of colour and beauty and nature and sunshine. The pleasure I get from feeding the soil and mulching and creating the best conditions for a plant to flourish when it’s ready.


As I think of the work to be done, I frequently look at January’s rabbit, knowing that a job I’ve missed off the list will soon pop into my thoughts. And Aha: as if by magic! I pick up my pen and write in big letters across the entire width of January: think of a recipe for the Queen’s platinum pudding!

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