16th January 2022
Galanthus 'Bess' .
The dam of spring seems to have burst. Last week the hillside was saturated as the winter rain flowed away, this week the fragile shoots of spring have fragile flowers
perched on top of them. I spent a happy half hour sitting on the ground in the snowdrop bed taking photographs and at the end of it I could feel the spring in my underpants.
It had soaked through my trousers and was spreading into my t-shirt. Washing machines are the wonder of the age!
There are snowdrops pushing up all around. I wandered about for a bit (pre-photography) looking for suitable places to plant some more. 'Bess' is currently planted in a large tub
and would be much better in the ground. She is a wonderful thing with a good, large flower that stands up straight and tall. Unfortunately,
although she is really good and I am increasingly impressed with the early display, she is not particularly distinctive. I need to find a little corner well away
from other snowdrop-like snowdrops to properly appreciate her. Snowdrop-welcoming corners that are not currently occupied by snowdrops are few.
I do have a little space under the Liriodendron that would be perfect. Unfortunately it is already planted with 'Flore Pleno', I could try to dig them out
and move them but I know I would never get them all. In a couple of years they would be back, as profuse and happy as ever. It's a cheerful plant and I delight in its
enthusiastic fecundity but it doesn't solve the problem of 'Bess'.
16th January 2022
Iris 'Katherine's Gold' .
As I sat among the snowdrops, slowly soaking up the spring, I wondered about gardening. I was swanning around in the sunshine as elegantly as a - well, perhaps as a duck anyway -
and it must look very serene. Only I will ever know the frantic last minute scrabbling that got me here. In the new herbaceous border the first flower on
Iris 'Katherine's Gold' has appeared, catching the low sunlight in an exclamation mark of wonder. In the middle of December there was a dry afternoon like an island in the ocean of winter.
Recognising that I wasn't going to have time (or, lets face it, inclination) to weed the border, I leapt onto the mower and cut it all to the ground. In the first days of January
I snatched a dry spell as the sun was setting and sprayed the whole thing with a herbicide in a frantic scrabble to get it done. A week later the border is filled with
the new leaves of Tulipa sylvestris and an Iris.
It is true that the Iris doesn't quite fill the border. I planted twenty-five last year, so far this year I have one to show for it. It doesn't do to be greedy,
I have one Iris and it commands attention as it emerges from the recently mown surface and stretches up into the sunshine of the week.
Iris 'Katherine's Gold' is a sport from 'Katharine Hodgkin' that was found in a Dutch production field. It seems to have replaced its parent in commerce.
For nostalgic reasons I wanted to plant 'Katherine Hodgkin' in this border, but couldn't get them so that was the end of nostalgia.
Gardeners are very practical.
16th January 2022
Helleborus x hybridus .
The rain of last week has been replaced by sunny weather. I have taken a moment in the morning while my porridge is cooking to stand outside the back door
and let the chilled sunshine hit me. It is a sensational luxury after months of dreary darkness. Fortunately the microwave has a loud ping or the experience of morning would be
split between bright sunlight and cold porridge.
The garden has warmed and spring has uncoiled. In the sunshine the greenhouse was as warm as a litter of sleeping puppies. For weeks I have been trudging dutifully up the hill
looking for the first signs of hellebores. The promise has been tantalising but the reality has been limited to the hard buds of disappointment beneath the leaves.
I know that when the flowers open they do it suddenly, I didn't want to miss the moment. We will probably have some heavy frosts, snow could still bow the hellebore heads to the ground,
but the moment they opened in the first glimmers of sunshine, the promise of spring was realised.
I still hope for a sensational display to come. I hope for it every year with winter-powered fervour and it hasn't happened yet. I need more plants, I always seem to need more plants.
However this is the moment that matters. In the hellebore border the tease of spring matures into a chuckle.
16th January 2022
Narcissus bulbocodium 'Casual Elegance' .
We have had a very mild year. There hasn't been a frost yet and the forecast isn't suggesting one in the next week. The garden is improvising a way through the season.
The hellebores seem late to me, I expect to find the first flowers in the last crumbling days of Christmas. Perhaps they need a cold spell to start them off.
The early daffodils were the same. For the first time since they were planted I thought that I might not have 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' in time for Christmas.
In the greenhouse, N. romieuxii was hardly budded as the New Year came in.
Narcissus bulbocodium seems to have done the opposite and has appeared much earlier than I was expecting. Perhaps the warm weather has hastened its development.
Whatever the reason, both 'Casual Elegance' and 'Arctic Bells' opened this week. Both will be more spectacular in a couple of weeks but the early flowers are disproportionately
cheering in the sunshine.
Naturally cloudless skies will lead to colder nights. Another month of frost free weather would be wonderful but it isn't very likely. These same flowers my easily appear next week
glittering with ice.
I have a few tender things still enjoying life in the open, it is probably time for a bit more frantic scrambling to get them under cover just in case.