Mother Nature and the frost-bitten female form

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The Independent Online

More seasonal gardening advice today! You may think that January is a dead old time in the garden, but if you don't keep battling and planning, then Old Mother Nature will give you a quick kick up the backside when you're not looking, and we wouldn't want that, would we? I'll take that as a No.

Right, here we go!

Q. May I just ask in what way Old Mother Nature could give you a quick kick up the backside?

A. Well, you see, Old Mother Nature is not really a kind old lady at all. She is much more akin to a pantomime dame. A pantomime dame looks like an old lady, has the dress sense of an old lady, and pretends to be an old lady, but all she is really interested in is going for the laughs. Old Widow Twanky is not so very far from Old Mother Nature. It's big bloomers and funny laundry with one, floods, frost, failed fruit, and falling trees with the other, but they're both going for the laughs.

Q. Oh, dear. So how can we possibly calm Old Mother Nature down, then?

A. By putting little light boxes all over the garden.

Q. How's that again?

A. Well, we have known for a long while that during winter we all get depressed because we get too little daylight. The condition is known as SAD, standing for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the therapy is to expose yourself to lots of light from a light box. So there is no reason why we should not put little light boxes round the garden next to our favourite flowers and see if it keeps them going through the whole winter.

Q. You're joking!

A. Absolutely not. It is well-known that when plane trees in London are jammed up against a street light which is on all night, the leaves stay green on that part of the tree until way past Christmas. So there is no reason why...

Q. This is all a bit New Age for me.

A. All right. Ask another question.

Q. One of the features of my garden is a display of Victorian statuary. When I see those naked nymphs out there, with icicles hanging off the poor things, I wonder if I should lag them in wintertime. Should I wrap my display up against the weather? I know that the Victorians did wrap up their nude statuary out of prudishness, and I wouldn't want to do that , but I wanted to know if it could be justified on the grounds of maintenance value?

A. Look, this myth about Victorian prudishness has gone on long enough! Don't you realise that the Victorian age was the high point of nude statuary? All the images of naked forms that we have at the back of our mind, or in our poster shops, are Victorian! All those Ettys and Alma-Tademas and swooning pre-Raphaelites, and those marble nymphs with big bums - they're all bursting with sex and they're all Victorian! Good God, every time I wander round the marble figures surrounding the Albert Memorial, and absent-mindedly run my hands over the ample haunches of the more nubile women, I wish passionately I were back in the honest-to-goodness Victorian era, and not in today's namby-pamby world where, if I were to put effigies of the nude female form into a garden, I would probably be arrested for disrespect to women at best and child abuse at worst!

Q. So should I lag my statues or not?

A. No.

Q. Is it too late to plant bulbs in the garden?

A. No, not if you don't mind bulbs coming up in the summertime, having a heart attack and falling over. Bulbs are actually coming up already, though you probably haven't noticed, because we are trained to notice things only when their season comes along. We are taught that sticky chestnut buds come in early spring, along with catkins and other things that mean that winter is over. This is not true at all. The sticky buds actually appear on the chestnuts well before Christmas. The catkins are already formed by then, too. They wait there for the warmer weather before they develop, and that is when we start noticing them - but they are all there long before we focus on them. This is a condition known as SBS or Seasonal Blindness Syndrome.

Q. Is it?

A. It is now.

Confused? So are we. Roll on springtime, that's what I say.