I’ve been listening to Sandi Toksvig’s Hygge on BBC Sounds– an excellent podcast, I recommend it. She and her guests are in a virtual log cabin in Denmark, talking about what the Scandinavian word ‘hygge’ means to them. It turns out that it’s quite a wide-ranging word, with shades of meaning going far beyond the idea of a cosy nook on a cold night with a hot toddy. And so it set me thinking about whether there is such a thing as hygge in the garden?
Hygge is about consciously stepping into a better frame of mind, moving from the wet flannel feeling of January to something more uplifting. Yes, life is not great for any of us right now; for some of us it’s pretty awful. But a hygge state of mind is determined to make small moments of positive experience for ourselves despite all that.
And you don’t need to buy stuff or spend money. Here are a few of my ideas you may like to introduce into your own garden this winter:
1. Use your senses
Many of us have learnt some new, good habits during lockdown but I find it’s still a challenge to keep on with them. What am I talking about here? Listening. Properly. Get out in the garden, the local park or just your balcony – there are a lot of sounds to notice. Yes there’s traffic noise. But what about those sharp sounds of seagulls screeching as they wheel overhead. Or birds softly cheeping in the hedge. Can you hear the rumble of the neighbours putting the bins out? Or the sound of your own feet as you scrunch across the lawn? All this helps anchor you in the moment. Definitely a good habit to get into.
2. Notice the little things
Invest a little time in looking closely at something in the garden – a curled, rusty leaf, or some bare branches against the sky, a rime of frost on the bird bath. Really examine it; the textures and colours it contains, the contrast with objects around it, the picture it makes in your mind. Consider how it got there, what processes were at work to make it happen. Then let it go and move onto the next object that catches your eye. You’ll find yourself quietly marvelling at all this. Nothing is ordinary.
3. Enjoy the sun on your face
OK I know it doesn’t happen very often in the UK. So be ready to grab some rays if the sun does put out a few gleams – get your coat on and just get out there! Take a plastic carrier bag in your pocket and then you can sit comfortably on damp garden furniture. Or text a friend and have a quick meet up on a park bench if the rules allow.
4. Get the firepit back out
We know from our clients that some of you are firepit addicts, willing to get the logs crackling at every opportunity! I think more of us (myself included) have something to learn from them. Warm faces shown up by the campfire flames, everyone cosied under coats and with mulled wine in our hands. Comfortable conversation and laughter despite our backs feeling cold. There really is something special about this – no doubt it resonates with our Stone Age past when keeping the fire going was serious stuff. Although of course nowadays you could add a few treats to the experience too – toasted marshmallows or roasted chestnuts anyone?
5. Look out!
Sometimes we just can’t make it into the great outdoors. The weather is dreary, we’re tired, there’s too much to do. So I invite you to look up and look out just for a moment – what can you see out of the window? Even at dusk there are lights twinkling from other houses in the street, or maybe your view is a wider cityscape with sunsets to enjoy. Fairy lights in warm white strung around arches or through bushes in your own garden help take your eye further out and create definition round the garden too.
6. Winter flowering plants
I know I said this blog was cost-free but I couldn’t resist adding a few plant suggestions for you. We have talked about this in other blogs, so suffice to say there are a surprising number of them – some with the most gorgeous scent – sarcococca and winter-flowering honeysuckle are my current faves. Plant near a path or doorway so you will notice and enjoy them. Evergreen clematis ‘Winter Beauty’ (pictured- courtesy of Taylors Clematis) is a stunner too. Or for some other plant ideas have a look at our earlier blog on Wonderful Winter Plants .
Want to be up and doing?
Hygge is many things, but one important strand is about wellbeing, and helping to cherish ourselves in small ways. Step away from the phone and the TV and into nature just for a few moments, you’ll find the winter blues reduce their hold.