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2nd January 2022

A (technically) dry New Years Day gave me some time to wander around the garden and see what was providing cheer through the murky cloud.

Acanthus senni .

Adonis ramosa .

Aechmea recuvata 'Nobilis'.

Ambrosinia bassii .

Berberis darwinii .

Brugmansia sanguinea .

The mild season has continued. By the side of the house Acanthus sennii has been in flower for a couple of weeks. By a strange freak of the weather it has looked better outside than it did in the greenhouse during autumn. Aechmea recurvata has done exactly the reverse, the plant outside has been nibbled by deer and formed a trimmed cushion of prickly stumps. Brugmansia sanguinea has been a surprise. I planted it out in spring and would have been delighted by some moderate growth. In the event it has grown vigorously and flowered for weeks. I think a sharp frost might finish it for good but I'm feeling a lot more optimistic than I did when I planted it.
Ambrosinia bassii is an astonishing little aroid that seems to put up with a lot of accidental abuse through the summer though its wonder was eclipsed at the last moment by Adonis ramosa. The Adonis is a delight not just for the cheer of it flowers but because I was completely convinced that it was dead when I repotted it in summer, I nearly threw the old rootstock out I was so sure it had gone.

Camellia 'Drama Girl'.

Camellia 'Glenn's Orbit'.

Camellia sasanqua 'Rainbow'.

Camellia 'Show Girl'.

Camellia transnokoensis .

Camellia 'Winter's Snowman'.

After weeks of promise and occasional early flowers the camellias have started to produce a display. 'Show Girl' now has a good sprinkling of flowers and makes an impact even from the far side of the garden. Buds on C. transnokoensis started to open around Christmas Day and it has enough flower to look good. With luck and decent weather it should continue for couple of months.
Most of the cultivars of C. sasanqua marked the end of autumn by dropping all their petals during the winter solstice. I think only 'Rainbow' kept any flowers, and the last of those were falling apart as I was taking pictures. Between the autumn camellias and the spring, 'Winter's Snowman' put in an appearance. I haven't seen flowers since I planted it a decade ago and I was beginning to think that it was a dud. A few fragile blooms and some frantic scrabbling over identification have restored its reputation.
Camellia 'Takanini' has also returned to flower triumphantly. Moved from the greenhouse to the garden in spring 2020, it spent the first year establishing. A few fat buds and an early red flower were unexpected but very welcome. The old flowers fade to a strange purple colour which is striking, but the new flowers look better.

Camellia 'Takanini'.

Canarina canariensis .

Convolvulus sabatius .

Correa alba 'Pinkie'.

Cyclamen coum .

Cyclamen persicum .

I pass a tub of Cyclamen coum on the path to the greenhouse. I have struggled for years to find a space in the garden where they will prosper and it is very pleasing to see this little ragged colony increasing. They are growing in full sun in a couple of inches of pea gravel and slowly being invaded by grases. I was worried about the competition but in the last few days flowers have been appearing in the path as well, so they have been seeding successfully out of the tub.
In the greenhouse, Canarina canariense continues to be astonishing with half a dozen flowers open, and Correa alba 'Pinkie' has taken advantage of the slight protection to flower freely for a month. I doubt that it would survive outside but it seems to be cold hardy, coming through the Beast from the East without damage. It is either cold winds or winter wet that it cannot tolerate.

Rhododendron Vuyks something.

Rubus spectabilis .

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'.

Veronica macrocarpa .

x Gordlinia grandiflora .

Fatsia polycarpa .

The first flowers on Rubus spectabilis promise spring, as do some early azalea flowers. The azalea is either 'Vuyks Scarlet' or 'Vuyks Rosy Red', I can't tell them apart until April when I will have both in flower together. A label would resolve the confusion but I missed my chance again last year.
Veronica macrocarpa opened just in time for the New Year. It is a bit tender but seems to be doing fine for now near the house. It doesn't have a long season but flowers during the shortest days of winter are particularly precious. x Gordlinia grandiflora tries hard too. Jolly well done!
The Daphne was just starting to scent the humid air. In the next few days the whole thing will burst into flower and the top of the garden will be strewn with trails of perfume.

Ficaria verna .

Fuchsia 'Hawkshead'.

Fuchsia 'Lechlade Magician'.

Geranium macrorhizum 'Ingwersen's Var.'

Geranium x oxonianum 'Thurstonianum'.

Grevillea victoriae .

The first Ficaria verna dawns as a golden celebration of spring. I have been watching the leaves develop for weeks but hadn't noticed this flower until it was pointed out to me. Like the first Geranium macrorhizum, it is evidence of a new year rather than the clinging fragments of the old. Some of the Fuchsia have dangled on, others were ended by strong winds at the start of the week. 'Lechlade Magician' will produce new buds though January whatever happens, but 'Hawkshead' will take a break until summer once the last frantic flush of winter flower gets frosted.

Galanthus 'Bess'.

Galanthus 'Ding Dong'.

Galanthus 'Faringdon Double'.

Galanthus 'Godfrey Owen'.

Galanthus 'Lyn'.

Galanthus 'Modern Art'.

The snowdrop season has also changed gear this week. The lacklustre fizz of early flowers has been replaced by some solid, clumpy action. 'Modern Art' is about to make a bold statement and 'Lyn' has a dozen flowers open. 'Godfrey Owen' has a lot more shoots than flowers but is distinctive and gratifyingly early.
I hope that 'Faringdon Double' has finally settled down to being the earliest of the double flowered cultivars in the garden. It has struggled for several years, producing flowers very late, or not at all. A handful of early flowers justify its place in the border. 'Reverend Hailstone' managed to squeeze a first flower open for New Years Day. I am very fond of its early enthusiasm to bring some absence of colour into the garden. I have a few other large flowered singles that open at the same time but 'Reverend Hailstone' is the one I look out for, though 'Bess' is also becoming a favourite.
'Three Ships' is fading fast into the autumn but still providing enough good flowers to make a show. I am slowly spreading it around the garden so that I can have the unexpected autumnal sparkle of spring in the brighter nooks and crannies.

Galanthus 'Reverend Hailstone'.

Galanthus 'Three Ships'.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Brimstone'.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'.

Hedychium 'Gardner Waters'.

Helleborus niger .

The last flowers on Helleborus niger have suffered from weather damage. I think there are a few buds still emerging but it might have shot its bolt over Christmas and given up for the year. This plant is about five years old, I am hoping for a few more years survival but I don't thing they are very long lived. They certainly don't last long here.
The first Hamamelis have also responded to the end of the old year. The flowers on 'Brimstone' were unexpected. but stood out well. I had to go looking for 'Jelena' which is delightful but inconspicuous. No sign of flowers on 'Ruby Glow' which is usually the earliest. I don't think the Hamamelis had a good year, long spells of cold and wet weather did not allow them to ripen wood particularly well and a vigorous growth of brambles hasn't helped.

Helleborus odorus .

Helleborus viridis .

Hesperantha coccinea .

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'.

Narcissus romieuxii 'Joy Bishop'.

Narcissus romieuxii 'Julia Jane'.

I have been searching for some early flowers on Helleborus x hybridus and finding nothing but buds. Searching for a last flower on Camellia 'Paradise Blush' had me thrashing around in the undergrowth and I almost stood on H. odorus and H. viridis. I hadn't even seen the buds developing. I made a mental note to clear the space out in summer and give them a bit more room.
Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' has developed from a single flower to a gentle scattering over the meadow and there are some flowers on N. romieuxii in the greenhouse. The N. romieuxii seeds freely into other pots and I am not sure my collection of cultivars are still true however they are all good and they are all welcome, so it doesn't really matter. Last year I dibbled all of the surplus and dubious bulbs around the side of the large Nerine pots. I am waiting to see if I get a decent daffodil display from among the flopping Nerine foliage. If it works I will plant a lot more of them.

Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies'.

Mahonia siamensis .

Mahonia x lindsayae 'Cantab'.

Mahonia x media 'Buckland'.

Mahonia x media 'Charity'.

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'.

Autumn was full of Mahonia and they have all reached a decent size now. Unfortunately thay have also revealed their shortcomings in the process. They occupy a nice border behind the snowdrops but they never quite manage to attract attention. I have a feeling that the M. x media forms at the very least will be finding new homes as evergreen filler in the windbreak. 'Arthur Menzies' has been good and is safe, M. siamensis still attracts my attention and 'Cantab' is spectacularly glossy (I do like shiny things). The others are practical. Very very practical. And they are hanging on with determination. Grim, yellow knuckled determination.
I'm being a bit harsh on them, I admire their contribution to autumn and winter but struggle to rejoice in it.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Ayesha'.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Hortmagreclo'.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Love You Kiss'.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Rie05'.

Rosa x odorata 'Viridiflora'.

Stenoglottis longifolia clone.2.

The mild weather has left the garden remembering the joys of last years hydrangeas. There are still flowers, they are more or less decorative but they are an anachronism. A sharp frost would blacken them all overnight and give a few months for excitement to build before they start again.

Nerine 'Audrey Clarke'.

Nerine bowdenii 'Kyre Park'.

Nerine bowdeni 'Mark Fenwick'.

Nerine 'Christmas Dreams'.

Nerine 'Pink Petticoats'.

Nerine undulata 'Winter Sun'.

The last of the late nerines are also providing some colour but even 'Christmas Dreams' is fading fast. The only fresh flowers have come from the very late blooming N. undulata 'Winter Sun' The first flower has just opened and it should last for a couple of months if the weather remains moderately wintery. It will be followerd by 'Fish River Gorge' which has a cluster of flower stems emerging now and might last into April.

Primula allionii 'James'.

Primula allionii 'Neon'.

Primula auricula 'Forest Bordeaux'.

Primula auricula 'Lunar Eclipse'.

Primula vulgaris .

Rhabdothamnus solandri .

Primulas have been producing odd flowers for a few weeks now but I think the P.allionii have now started to move with determination. Every year I mean to do some deliberate pollinations and grow some seedlings but it hasn't quite happened yet. I'm sure this will be the year!
I don't know what I want a lot of new seedlings for, but I find the idea appealing. Part of me just wants to prove that I can do it, my history with Primula has not been wreathed in glory. I want to prove to my own satisfaction that I can overcome slugs, vine-weevil and lethargy after decades of pests and idolence.

Cymbidium Eastern Bunny 'Tsuki No Hikari'.

Cymbidium Nagalex 'Hatsune'.

Sinningia bullata .

Dendrobium AR Regal Star.

Dendrobium Starsheen 'Botanic Fireworks'.

Lachenalia bifolia 'George'.

In the greenhouse, the winter orchids have taken advantage of a mild autumn to produce good flower spikes. A couple of hybrids of Cymbidium goeringii are delivering everything I could have hoped for. When I bought them I was worried that I would not be able to keep them alive. I was still at that stage of cultivation with C. goeringii itself when life clung on a thread. An orchid nursery had three hybrids on offer. I bought two of them out of some strange delusion that it would be wasteful to buy all three when I wasn't sure I could keep them. I am kicking myself now.
Flowers on the winter Dendrobium will all suffer if the temperatures drop towards freezing. The display this year is starting to look very hopeful and it would be a pity to lose it. Two years ago I brought the budded plants into the house where they hated the low light levels and dry air. As a result they will stay in the greenhouse this year, protected by my crossed fingers and a layer of fleece if fingers seem insufficient. I am hoping for a gentle stream of flowers until D. kingianum opens to scent the early days of summer.
It seems a long way away but it isn't.