In October, David Coton is getting the garden prepared for the onset of colder weather but, at the same time, the arrival of spring bulbs in the garden centre is a reminder that you should also now be planning ahead for next year.
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2013 is the Year of the Snake. But don't be unduly concerned if you suffer from ophiophobia. Not a lot of people know what it is and Snakes aren't all bad anyway. Someone coming into the world this year might be cunning, quick to anger and possessive but they will excel at business and will always be able to provide for you.
And how do we know all this ? Well, when the Jade Emperor summoned all the animals, they raced to him and on the way displayed the various characteristics that we associate with them today. The snake for example was a bit sneaky, surreptitiously using the horse to cross a river but then scaring it so much that the snake beat it to the Emperor.
Rats, Oxen, Tigers, Rabbits and Dragons
Where the animals finished determined their position in the zodiac. The Snake was sixth behind the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit and Dragon, and so relates to 2013 and every twelfth year i.e. 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965 and 1953. It's a good story but no-one really knows the zodiac's exact origins, although the animals were officially recognized during the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago.
Each animal is also tempered by an element, this year it is Water that previously occurred in 1953. So if you are 60 years old this year, you should be romantic, refined, insightful, a good manager, motivated by results as well as money and although affectionate to the family, it is strictly business once outside the home.
You may be judgmental, a bad loser, tell fibs and, although happy to help out, are wary of giving financial assistance. Your intuitiveness and introspection may lead to vanity and resistance to constructive advice. So not the best character reference and the nearest western sign would be Taurus.
The new year heralds the Spring Festival with the largest celebrations naturally in countries with large ethnic Chinese populations. It's a time for family, firecrackers and lots of food, especially dumplings, lasting through to the new moon fifteen days later.
Hong Kong and Beijing have massive firework displays and fairs. Harbin has a famous snow and ice festival featuring various palaces, monuments and statues sculptured from ice and decorated with thousands of lights, and Shanghai's lantern festival brings an end to the celebrations. In London there are colourful displays of acrobatics, lion dances and music together with a proliferation of dragons that symbolise strength and good luck.
Whether the refined and sophisticated Snake would enjoy all this high jinx is open to question. They enjoy elegance, comfort and peace rather than bright lights and might appreciate the home decorated with flowers that have significance within Chinese culture.
The Chrysanthemum will attract good luck into a home, Citron or Buddha's hand is another flower that is associated with happiness. Daffodils are appropriate for those seeking promotion in their careers while orchids offer beauty and prosperity.
Whether you believe all this or not, there's no denying that it's a good excuse for having a good time and exploring another culture. Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Although the days are short and the view from our Garden Centre is frosty and overcast, Andy Taylor suggests various jobs that can be done in the garden during the month of January.
Showcasing young musical talent, this year's Winter Concert at Arthur Terry School was an outstanding success and took place against the stunning backdrop of a Christmas Tree donated by GardenSite.
It was quite an honour for GardenSite to be asked to supply the Christmas Tree to Birmingham New Street Station this year, and to celebrate we're offering a Champagne High Tea to the winners of a seasonal selfie competition.
With Storm Caroline reeking havoc many people are likely to be contacting their insurance companies at some time regarding damage caused to sheds, greenhouses, fences and other garden property. Robert Hall explains how GardenSite.co.uk can help with an independent insurance quote and claim.