The garden screams ‘Promise’ at every turn, offering up joy on every ramble. Buds of Prunus mume ‘Beni Chidori’, tight little pink balls for several weeks, have begun opening and allowing yet another fragrant winter plant to delight us in these leaner months. A picture of the tree, below, does not give a good indication of its real impact, but at least the close up of some of the blooms does.
In the Coop, more of the bulbs are flowering or getting close, like Iris ‘Clairette’, Narcissus bulbocodium, bought-in hyacinths and Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’
In the Coop Corner, Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ has just appeared out of bare ground and will be flowering in no time:
On the nearby fence, Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ is covered in buds, with the promise of fragrant white blooms to contrast with its glossy green leaves, and in the woodland edge border a pulmonaria delights the rambler with its unassuming bicoloured flowers.
The greatest promise, however, is of the impending carpet of snowdrops in this border, watched over by some of the remaining witch hazels and peppered with the individual intricacies of numerous hellebores – and it will only get better…
I am joining in with Jim’s Six on Saturday meme – do check it out at his Garden Ruminations blog
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I must be honest and say that the petticoats are not velvet, but two pots of hooped petticoat narcissi in the Coop, Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Arctic Bells’ and ‘Casual Elegance’ (above); what is velvet, however, is a plant recommended for a cool greenhouse by well-known UK nurseryman Bob Brown. I was trying to find suitable contenders for the Coop and bit my tongue as I tried to ignore that it has yellow flowers – I am glad I did as the foliage is not only delightful but tactile too, and as a plant it has sailed through two winters with negligible attention and without batting an eyelid, looking every bit as smart as it did when I first bought it. Let me introduce you to Oxalis spiralis ‘Sunset Velvet’ (below):
The first ‘Tête-à-tête’ in the streamside grass for a start (although if you look closely it is more weed than grass these days) above, and one of several recently-emerged Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ blooms below:
You can sense it in the slowly stretching evenings, the higher skies, the shifting quality of light, and the noisy chatter of birds. And you can see it in the flowering hellebores, witch-hazel and sweetly perfumed daphne, as well as the snowdrops, daffodils, cyclamen, aconites, crocuses and dwarf irises that have pushed their snouts through cold, wet soil to burst into determined, brilliant bloom.
Not surprisingly, I have been enjoying my witch hazels in recent weeks, from the moment they began flowering at the turn of the year. Some are perhaps on the wane now, but there is still plenty of colour on all of them. Why not come and admire them with me?
This hellebore always astonishes me with its profligacy, an almost overabundance of buds and, in due course, flowers. I have to remember not to trim its marbled leaves, a feature of x ericsmithii hellebores; this one is H ‘Piroueutte’ and I can visualise it twirling round and around with its swirling pink skirts, like a whirling dervish.
If there is a lesson to be learned about the rose above, ‘Phyllis Bide’, it is not to overlook what is in front of your face. Planted outside the front door a few years ago to replace, on a whim, the bright pink ‘Pink Perpetue’, the bud that this bloom opened from must have been in evidence before I noticed the fully open flower on Thursday, but I hadn’t seen it. Not that I was expecting to see any roses in bloom halfway through January, although it does sometimes happen – and admittedly it tells me that this is a rose I had forgotten to prune when I did my climbers back in the late autumn! The front of the house is in full sun for most of the morning, so the sunshine that accompanied some bitterly cold days this last week has clearly given Phyllis a boost. Overall, however, she has still been outperformed by her predecessor, and needs to pull her socks up to justify her front-of-house position.
I feel sorry for gardeners who have no incentive to spend time in their gardens in January, especially on the more clement days like those we have had this week – with colder days due soon, however, it might be a matter of looking for tasks that can be carried out inside for a while! Now that the working greenhouse is up and running again (albeit currently sharing the space with the remnants of reconstruction and unpacked bags and crates) I can at least begin sowing seeds, starting them inside the house before moving them into the greenhouse upon germination.
I have no idea what has caused this ‘flame’ in the garden, but perhaps it really does symbolise the heart of it. I was not aware of the flame while I was working in the garden today, removing and cleaning the bricks from the low retaining wall at the back of one of the bold borders, and it only became evident when I looked at the photos later. Looking at the wider picture, when there was about a third of the wall left to remove and clean, you can see that there is a glass sculpture in the border but, at the time the picture was taken, the sun (and it was a sunny day) was behind me and to my right, so it wasn’t shining through the glass. Curiously, as I perched on my makeshift stool, chipping away at the bricks with my lump hammer and chisel, I found myself thinking of earlier civilisations, chipping away with bones and stones to make their artefacts – so could I perhaps have been joined by ghosts from the distant past, huddled round their fire for warmth…?
The gentlemen may well be resting and making merry but, never one to sit and twiddle my thumbs, I have suddenly found myself in the middle of another project. With only eight weeks until we open the garden again, it is not necessarily a sensible thing to be doing, but with a settled period of weather in the offing it was hard to resist, especially as the Golfer was very much up for the challenge. In fact, unusually, the project developed from an idea of his, a practical revision of the status quo, and began with stealing one of the cutting beds (above) and temporarily bagging it up (below):
Working through winter tasks in the garden when time and weather align favourably, there are plenty of opportunities to look forward and back, usually simultaneously, such as with crab apple Malus ‘Evereste’. This sad, mushy state was pretty normal for M ‘Golden Hornet’, but the blackbirds have usually taken all the peachy crabs from ‘Evereste’ well before now, leaving me looking forward to the pretty spring blossom or at least to when I am able to remove the offending fruit. Even the red Christmas lights do little to enhance their ugliness.
After a few days of clear sunny days and blue skies, even with a hint of warmth in the sun on Thursday, it was almost inevitable that we would soon be seeing our first frost of the season – and so it was, arriving like a thief in the night. Temperatures dipped to -2°C in the early hours, and haven’t risen above 5°C for the rest of the day, finally putting paid to autumn for this year.
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