24th January 2021
A cold week in the garden but with enough sunshine to lift the spirits. The first half of the week was wet enough to leave the ground soft and slippery so I was happy to leave it to drain a little.
By Thursday the sunshine was too attractive to ignore. Thanks to the invention of the shoe-horn I was able to get my boots on without doing the one footed hopping dance along the hall.
The garden has been frost free and the cracks in the varnish of winter have spread a little wider. The first foolish Camellia buds have burst, forerunners to the full disply to come.
I have been looking sternly at a row of young Camellia uncovered when I removed some trees last spring. No sign of buds, I thought I was going to have to wait another year.
Suddenly this week there are buds visible. Perhaps thay have been illuminated by the low light, perhaps they have just swelled. Whatever the reason they are welcome, offering the
possibility that I will be able to identify them at last.
The thaw has had other consequences; two Cinnamomum planted last spring have been defoliated. Given a mild spell they may well recover but it is clear that a serious winter would
kill them. They grew without damage in a cold greenhouse for many years, it is interesting to see the difference in response outside. In the same way Radermachera sinica
has lost all of the new growth outside. In the greenhouse it was a pest, growing faster than I could cut it back. Outside its survival is in question.
24th January 2021
Galanthus 'Fieldgate Continuo' .
A few frosty nights a fortnight ago were enough to provide an honourable "winter" in the garden. As the weather warmed buds have been bursting and spring growth has emerged.
Before the chill the snowdrops were coming up higgledy-piggledy, now they seem to have synchronised. They might be responding to a distinct trigger as a result of the freeze
or it could be that they were simply held up for a week allowing the slower bulbs to catch up. Whatever the reason, some of the clumps are looking good.
Galanthus 'Fieldgate Continuo' has caught my eye again this year. It's an odd thing, some snowdrops do it and others don't. In many ways this is just one more
spring snowdrop with a decent flower and a large green mark but the clump stands out. It was helped by a day of bright sunshine and it could just be chance, position or good timing
but it stood out last year and it has stood out again this.
G. 'Bess' has also been good. I wouldn't want to have to tell it apart from a host of others growing as a single bulb in a pot, but in the garden it looks relaxed.
It hasn't had to struggle to look good, that is just what it does.
G. 'Anglesey Abbey' has the same flowering confidence, performing without the need for drama. It should hit a peak next week and it will be difficult to overlook.
24th January 2021
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' .
A week ago, after the rains, I was walking through the garden admiring the way the raindrops sparkled in the sunshine as they clung to the bare branches.
I always try to take pictures but they rarely work out as planned. Walking through the garden I am immersed in sparkling lights. The photographs show a series of wet branches.
There is a large Acer palmatum that has repeatedly been the subject of photographic studies and I have dozens of images showing nothing but a bedraggled Acer. Still, I keep trying.
The sparkling effect comes in late winter. The thin twigs gather a drop of glistening rain at every junction, every tip. It works because the thin twiggery allows the light to stream through.
It works because the winter buds have not yet swelled into spring. At present flower buds are swelling but leaf buds are not. Shortly the leaf buds will swell and the light will start to be obscured.
Light leafy shadows will marble the ground and the sparkling will end.
In the meantime there are Hamamelis with narrow petals seeming to burst from the bare branches. H. 'Diane' is the deepest red flowered cultivar that I grow.
I have tried others but they haven't established. The pig-headed part of me wants to try again but there is a calmer part that enjoys the ones I have without needing more.
As a young shrub 'Diane' blended into the background of the bare woodland but as it matures the flowers shine richly in the low light, helped substantially by the evergreen foliage
that has grown up around them.
24th January 2021
Narcissus romieuxii .
For a very long time I was able to keep control of daffodils in the garden. I am not a lover of mixed daffs spattering borders like the snot-blobs of a horticultural sneeze.
Where I have planted daffodils I have planted them in large masses for specific reasons. It was all working out rather well until I started to enjoy the tiny daffodils
and plant them among the snowdrops. To be fair the snowdrop bed has always been a capsule of madness, the addition of daffodils has changed the appearance but not the character.
Narcissus romieuxii was part of the advance-party that opened the door to the rest of the tiny monsters. I have always liked it. I value its appearance in December,
a beam of light sunshine through the gorged heart of fat Father Christmas. It has been the most spectacular thing in the garden since the start of the new year.
I say in the garden, it is actually in the greenhouse. It grows well outside but doesn't flower as freely or as precociously. As long as I remember to keep it wet in winter
it seems to thrive under cover - increasing leaks in the greenhouse roof help in that respect.
The pace of the garden has picked up, even from last week. The shining monochrome simplicity of winter has coloured. The first flower of Camellia 'Drama Girl'
is already pinned to the twigs like a raw steak. The gentle daffodils aren't whispering soothing lullabyes from nodding heads. They feel the frantic pace of spring stirring.
They are shouting "Fuck!".