Now that's magic: How to distract the eye from end-of-year malaise

It probably doesn't happen to, say, Linda Evangelista, but most of us do have days where we wake up, look in the mirror and just want to weep. Even if the hair is half-decent and the wrinkles aren't too gouged, the sight of the same old face, with all its disappointing familiarity, leads to teary thoughts of mortality. Or at least major plastic surgery.

The phenomenon also extends to gardens, where October can bring on a whole rash of self-critical pondering. Green acres of positive mental attitude will not prevent a heart sinking fast on contemplation of the pathetic reality outside. The summer has passed; all uncompleted jobs now roll over to next year. Far from feeling like relief, instead there is a deathly clinging sense that a gardener will never, ever be free. Or even finished.

When the malaise hits, though, there are still tasks worth attempting. Tackling the areas that will be the most visible over the next few months is a high priority. In autumn we all spend more time inside the house, looking out, so target areas such as window boxes, front gardens and the view from the sink where you wash up.

Front gardens are a whole other problem. If you are a minimalist, you might enjoy my neighbour's solution: a single magnolia tree, which will flower in early spring, surrounded by white pebbles laid over weed-proof membrane. The grey trunk of the tree with its soft furry buds cheers every morning of the new year, and the whole effect is smart and clean. On the other hand, as a non-minimalist myself, I'm growing more than 200 tulip bulbs. In a mix of colours I may come to regret.

One of the best gardening techniques is simple magician-style distraction. Plan an eye-catching basket of winter bulbs for the centre of your garden table, and move it into your direct eyeline from the house. Choose something that flowers early, such as hyacinths, with astonishing colour and fragrance – "Woodstock", for example (three bulbs for £2.70, avonbulbs.co.uk) – then overplant the bulbs with cyclamen and ivy for some colour and foliage over the winter. (Cyclamen hederifolium are already in flower, and are very pretty: £5.99 a pot, crocus.co.uk.) Or trail tongues of ivy over the edge of the seat of an outside chair – a little display to draw the eye away from problems elsewhere.

Finally, keep an eye on the detail. Hellebores are some of the best plants for this time of year, with their beautiful, odd flowers, but they have a bad shoegazing habit of turning their heads downwards. They need to be somewhere you can actually admire the blooms – on a doorstep, on a window sill, or right outside the back door. Once they have finished flowering, you can plant them somewhere they will actually like, but in the meantime, drink them in. You may even find yourself smiling in the mirror.

Winter warmers

1. Viburnum Bodnantense

My mum swears by planting these near dustbins. Then at least you get a lungful of perfume as you carry out the wintry rubbish. Flowers from November. £12.99, crocus.co.uk

2. Magnolia Stellata

A smaller magnolia with bright-white, star-shaped flowers, to lift your spirits on dark days, from February. £19.99, crocus.co.uk

3. Hellebore Harvington Lilac

Suitable for a large container, with huge pale flowers from February. £9.99, crocus.co.uk. Underplant with Iris reticulata "Harmony" for a simultaneous show of tiny dark-blue drama. £3.20, avonbulbs.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Partner Manager - EMEA

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Partner Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - OTE £100,000

£45000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Sales Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company provides IT support...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manager is for a successfu...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific