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
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all