There are many words of wisdom on winter in general and on January in particular in our Vintage Words of Wisdom titles. In The Cottage Farm, F.E. Green agrees with me about sunny January mornings:
Milking and digging begin, if not in the dark, at an hour when the dawn comes like a dusky beauty before she lifts her veil to the kiss of the sun. Is ever the sunlight in summer as lovely as it is on a clear January morning, when it floods the meadows with a dancing light, strikes aslant the lichened boles of oaks, or when it irradiates the underwings of a flock of plovers as they turn in their flight, flashing like herrings in a net? Can any month be said to be “dead” which brings us troupes of bustling starlings, glistening as if they had preened their wings at the edge of the rainbow?
This morning, as I walked down the hoarfrosted meadow to break the ice in the pond, a heron flew up within a few yards of me. Never before have I watched a heron so closely. With a heavy, languorous flight it rose above the bushes overhanging the pond, and ponderously swung round by the stream, winging its way back to the great ponds a mile away.
At this time of year I am mightily cheered by flowers like hyacinths, snowdrops and the beautiful scent of the fragrant box plant by my front door. I find it very difficult to grow my hyacinth bulbs vertically (as you can see from the photograph).
There was one inconvenience, however, and that was the difficulty of staking so securely as to make a heavy mass of bloom and foliage perfectly safe. The smoothness of the interior of the bowl allowed of no grip for stakes, while even when the fibre was interlaced thickly with roots, it remained more or less yielding. Various devices were resorted to, with more or less successful results, and to some extent the difficulty was overcome in one way or another. We solved the problem in a way of our own; that is, by adopting the device of using two vessels, one smaller than and within the other, the space between them being packed so firmly with fibre, kept moist, that flower-sticks could be inserted and held firmly upright with wires (Fig. 5).
Room and Window Gardening is full of very useful and practical advice. There is helpful guidance on an alternative method of growing hyacinth bulbs later in the book:
Hyacinths in Bovril Bottles
The Hyacinths to use for this are the small white Romans, and ½-lb. Bovril bottles will be found none too big if good bulbs are purchased. The bottle should be filled with water almost to the brim, and the bulbs stood, base downwards, on the top of the neck; the water should just, and only just, clear the base of the bulb. The bottles and bulbs should be placed in a dark and warm cupboard, and not brought into the light until the white roots are 3 in. long; they may then be gradually inured to full light and stood in a window. Duc van Thol Tulips also succeed grown in this way, but not so well as Roman Hyacinths.
While room and window gardening may seem like an attractive proposition on a chilly day, some light relief, in both senses of the word ‘light’, can boost wellbeing in the deep midwinter. K.R.G. Browne and Heath Robinson encourage us to go outside and soak up as much daylight as possible in How to Make a Garden Grow:
All the same, Mr. Heath Robinson and I feel that gardeners despair too easily in Winter. After all, the British are a pretty hardy race – witness their unshakable affection for boiled cabbage – with a passion for fresh air that is worth thousands annually to Harley Street; and with a little care and ingenuity a garden can be made almost as attractive in December as in June. All that is required is (or are) a few artificial flowers – preferably made of tin, to withstand hailstorms – one or two imitation rose-trees in frost-proof zinc, a little synthetic heat in the form of portable oil-stoves, plenty of umbrellas, a lot of imagination, some stout boots and a set of warm woollen underwear for everybody.