‘Tis the years’s midnight’ as John Donne said in his not very cheery poem ‘A Nocturnal on St.Lucie’s Day.’ St.Lucie’s Day falls on the 13th December which before the Gregorian calendar reform was the winter solstice. This year the winter solstice falls on the 21 December, so today is the first official day of winter.
‘The sun is spent and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world’s whole sap is sunk.
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk.
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk.
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh
Compared with me who am their epitaph.’
OK, the shortest day can be depressing, specially for a gardener, but I think John Donne should pull himself together, it’s not that bad. There are a few blooms to cheer us.
The winter jasmine provides a wall of sunshine and is great for picking.
The winter flowering mahonias are gorgeous. The blue tits like to peck their buds but that’s fine, I like to watch their antics.
Near this mahonia there is a variegated laurel and a Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’. I would never have planted them, they are not my favourite shrubs, but at this time of the year they are a welcome sight and brighten up this corner, specially with the Garrya elliptica behind, with its jade green tassels.
I pruned the Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ and so it is nice and bushy. If left unpruned, they can be very gawky with their flowers way too high to enjoy.
I have several bushes of Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, I didn’t get round to pruning this next one and you can see how leggy it looks. I will cut down each stem when it has finished flowering, to just above a knobbly bit . As it is, only the birds get to enjoy the flowers.
The next one has been pruned, it is lovely and bushy and I can enjoy the lovely flowers which are slightly fragrant. The flowers are more erect than the ones on M. ‘Charity’. I love the glossy, green leaves which look good all year round. Sometimes you see mahonias with leaves which have turned red. This looks pretty, but unfortunately it is a sign of stress.
Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden has witch hazels in bloom already. Mine have just a tiny bit of colour showing on their buds hinting at the delights to come. There are also plenty of buds on the chimonanthus and my daphnes, so there is plenty to look forward to. Abutilons seem to bloom on and on. This one is outside so I was surprised to see it has flowers looking unscathed by the cold.
The incomparable Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ starts blooming in December and is full of buds so it will cheer up the darkest January days.
Kris at Latetothegardenparty blog has Erigeron glaucus ‘Wayne Roderick’ in her Monday vase this week. Well, that’s not amazing in Los Angeles. But here it is blooming away in my December garden.
At this time of the year we start to get excited about hellebores and snowdrops which will be delighting us soon.
This Helleborus niger is living up to its name of Christmas rose. The black grass is Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ which I love to grow with snowdrops and snowy white hellebores.
And there are Christmas snowdrops just starting to bloom. Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ has been trying to grow through a carpet of leaves, but now I have rescued it so I hope the stems will straighten out.
Galanthus ‘Santa Claus’ shows no signs of blooming in time for Christmas, but you can always rely on Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’ to be nice and early. In fact it is the first double snowdrop in bloom. I know it is still only a bud and totally underwhelming unless you are one of those strange people whose heart beats faster at the sight of a snowdrop in December.
I don’t think my little Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ is going to open in time for Christmas although it often does. Still it won’t be long.
It is nice to think that after today the days will start to get longer again and we can start to dream about spring. In the meantime I thought I would try and get Hector in a Christmassy mood. But it’s not working. He’s saving himself for the big day.
I shan’ t say Happy Christmas today because in a few days it will be Christmas Eve. Traditionally this is a time to sit round the fire with a glass of something nice and tell stories. And my Christmas Eve post is a story. See you then.