Sandy's Garden ... Stoned

November is not my favourite month.

It has a decided tendency to be damp and chill, the air infused with the sort of dank cold which is capable penetrating even proper winter clothing. I feel the cold more than I used to when I was younger; and what I might once upon a time have described as a ‘bracing’ morning I now disdain as just plain cold and damp.

My mood is not helped by the fact that my garden seems to have developed a sort of grey tinge to almost everything; the foliage of plants which retain some or all of their leaves year-round is now myriad shades of grey-green – plenty of variations, but all tinged with variations of grey-green.

Even during sunny spells my plants look sad, their gloomy colours complementing their drooping branches and branchlets to confer a funereal atmosphere to my environs. No, November is not my favourite month.

The Falkirk Herald's very own gardening guru Sandy Simpson

I anticipate, with considerable trepidation, the likelihood that November 2020 will be worse … even worse … than a normal November. During the past seven-and-a-bit months of restricted living, when we have been unable to do many of the things which were once part and parcel of everyday life, I have found solace in my garden.

I am sure I have never spent so many hours in any one previous year titivating the sundry areas of trees, of shrubs and of bedding plants, the numerous pots and planters and the several expanses of hard landscaping. And now I am looking at the prospect of months of not wanting to be outside in my garden, my hands and ears chilled and my every movement hampered by several layers of allegedly warm clothing.

Accordingly, I have not yet totally surrendered the notion of spending a few last hours tidying up the odd garden feature, including the decorative gravel which escorts the paving slabs leading from the street to my garage. The range and variety of gravels and similar materials is remarkable.

There’s dove grey limestone gravel, polar white marble gravel, Cotswold buff gravel, Cotswold gold gravel, Cheshire pink gravel, golden gravel, southern gold gravel, red granite gravel, green granite gravel, Lomond gravel, pea gravel, orange quartz gravel, silver blue granite gravel, barleycorn gravel, charcoal gravel, multispar gravel, Rhinegold gravel, green glass chippings, black glass chippings, lilac glass chippings, Scottish pebbles, Scottish cobbles, polar white cobbles, polar white pebbles, beach cobbles, large Welsh cobbles, Mediterranean cobbles, graphite grey slate chippings, blue slate chippings, plum slate chippings, Welsh green slate chippings, Snowdonia tumbled slate, blue paddlestones, plum paddlestones and many more – the list of available products goes on, and on - and on! And this is before one considers the several sizes which are on offer!

The gravel in my drive was originally spread more than 50 years ago and must surely be a landscaping industry standard, for 20mm orange quartz is still readily available, totally indistinguishable from the original gravel. I’m impressed!

There cannot be too many products which can be bought off-the-shelf after such a lengthy period of time, allowing people like me to replace material which has been crushed to powder after straying on to the paving stones and been run over, has migrated to the street edge and been swept up by a gutter cleaner, has sunk into the substrate or has just disappeared.

I daresay that I might even be able to buy my orange quartz washed and sparkling clean: but I am content to spread it where it is needed in its as-quarried condition, happy to let the first rain wash any sand from the stones.

It’s not even particularly expensive either; and it’s available in 25kg bags … half-a-hundredweight in old money … which are readily handled by old gardeners like me, especially when I only want a couple of bags put into the boot of my car every year-or-so just as a top up.

So please join me in offering a big ‘thank you’ to the landscaping industry.