Tuesday 8th January 2019. The Botanic Garden was quiet; the holidays were over and sudden winter sun under ice blue skies caught people unprepared following a run of dismal days. Lunch time lovers strolled arm in arm; serious pairs walked at a measured pace in deep discussion; small groups of women took chatty lunchtime exercise, breaks from their desks and lab benches; silent figures sat on benches reading or just enjoying being in the moment. A man threw crusts to expectant fluttering gulls; and a couple photographed ducks and moorhens on the pond. The gardeners went about their work raking leaves and turning over the beds. There was no queue at the Garden Café.
The low sun sent long raking shadows across the grass creating a patchwork of light and dark giving the whole Garden a chiaroscuro macro texture. It painted a micro texture in the grass, in the variegated orange-brown carpet of leaves and in the fissured bark of the trees, soft on the sequoias, sharp on the pines and oaks. Pine resin sparkled on the wounds left by recently lopped limbs. The bareness of diaphanous willows and sky-clawing beeches contrasted with the bushy branches of the evergreens.
In the Winter Garden, suffused by the heavy scent of viburnum and winter honeysuckle, nature was confused: early January and snowdrop, primulas and hellebores were in flower and a fat bumble bee fed on the yellow sprays of mahonia. The Fen Display was stripped bare, a cold, wet space fit for winter.