Saturday, 22 December 2007

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice occurs at 06:08 am GMT on the 22nd December this year. The Earth in the northern hemisphere lies cold and still, subdued by the harsh winter. Animals and insects are in hibernation, awaiting the return of the light and warmth - and often we feel like doing the same. Our Cannas are tucked up in winter storage, hopefully safe from the frosts.

Canna 'Breuil', an old Crozy favourite

That is the shortest day of the year. Animals react to the changing seasons with changes in mood, metabolism and behavior, and human beings are just the same. Those people who suffer most are being affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also called the "winter blues." The problem stems from the lack of bright light in winter. Researchers have proved that bright light makes a difference to the brain chemistry but why some people suffer and others don't is not clear.

Canna 'Baronne de Renowardy', another old Crozy cultivar

From now on the days will start lengthening, and while we in Europe normally have the most serious winter weather in January, the fact that we are seeing more light helps lift the "winter blues" as we look forward to Spring. As gardeners, this can also be a pleasant time for us, the seed and plant catalogues still provide hours of planning and expectation for what is to come. Sending out orders for new varieties and organising swaps with fellow enthusiasts starts to arouse the feeling of expectation.

Canna 'Alt Württemberg', a large Crozy Group cultivar from Wilhelm Pfitzer

Many plants are triggered by the circadian rhythm and daylight hours. Others seem to respond more to temperature and, in particular, to the absence of hard frost. Cannas are in the latter category, as they are under the soil, with nothing growing above, and not able to sense the length of day. However, in February the temperatures will start rising and as long as there is sufficient moisture then the old starch machines (my gentle nickname for Cannas) will slowly grind into action again.

Roll on, says me...

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