In this cold, two- faced month of snow, ice and gales, my infatuation with my garden always dissolves. Other bloggers show beautiful scenes of pure white snow. I hate the stuff. And then there are exquisite shots of seedheads rimed with hoar frost. We have had more hoar frost than usual this winter, but it is always accompanied by freezing fog. The sight of all that chilly dankness has me hurrying back under the duvet.
All year round I see the garden through rose- coloured spectacles and love it passionately. But in January, it’ s as though, if it were a man I would wake up from my infatuation and suddenly notice unwashed straggly hair, blackheads, nasal hair, a vulgar shirt, a tie with egg on it and the noisy slurping of soup. That’ s how my garden seems to me right now; thoroughly unkempt, a bit like Les Patterson. But still, the 15th is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day so I have been prowling round to see if I can find any blooms to rekindle my love affair with the garden.
If anything can work the magic it is the spidery flowers of Witch Hazel. They prefer acid soil but if you can provide plenty of moisture they will cope with neutral soil, but they must not be too wet in winter. They really require that well- known horticultural oxymoron ‘moist but well drained soil’. Last year was very dry, so some of them are not as floriferous as they could be. But still they are lovely. I am still waiting for the primrose yellow ‘Pallida’ and last of all, the darker yellow ‘Arnold’s Promise’ to open. But to be going on with, Hamemelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’ named after the ancient Slavic goddess of spring is one of my favourites. It also has glorious autumn foliage.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘ Livia’ has lovely wine- red flowers.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ has gorgeous coppery orange flowers.
Cathy at ramblinginthegarden blog clearly adheres to the philosophy that a girl can never have too many Witch Hazels. I think she is right and what could be more cheering than a trip to find yet one more? I think it should be an annual January event. They are grafted so they are expensive, but still they are cheaper than the Xmas tree which I threw out after a week. The trip home with one in the car is blissful as the warmth brings out the gorgeous fragrance. My find this year is the stunning Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’. It even smells vaguely of marmalade. Now can you get any more orangey than that?
I haven’t planted it yet. I was going to put it behind this evergreen Sarcococca confusa with its gorgeously fragrant little cream flowers and shiny green leaves.
But then I realised the obvious place for it is with the orangey grass Anemanthele lessiana.
I love sarcococcas with their spicy fragrance which spreads round the garden. Ideally I would like a hedge of it like the one lining the path from the car park at Anglesey Abbey. I have three plants of Sarcococca confusa which makes quite a large shrub. Sarcococca hookkeriana var. digyna is my favourite. It makes a small bush and the leaves are finer. The flowers are touched with pink. These plants like shade. The only problem with them is remembering how many o’s and c’s they have. Personally, I think 4 c’s is a bit excessive.
Another plant worth getting out of bed for in January is the Wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox. This amazing shrub comes from China. In January it produces claw- like yellow flowers with maroon centres on its bare branches. Sometimes, as in the plant in Cambridge Botanical Gardens, the flowers are pale cream or almost white. The spicy scent is exquisite and one small twig of it will fill a room with the most delicious fragrance. It needs the warmth of a south wall to produce an abundance of blooms. I know many people are reluctant to give it such a privileged position as it is so dull in summer. I grow a Clematis viticella up it for summer interest. There are plenty of other flowers to enchant us in summer but nothing like chimonanthus to cheer up the gloomiest time of the year. I grew mine from seed but I don’ t recommend this. It grows readily from seed but it takes at least 7 or 8 years to bloom. Mine is about 18 years old now. When I dug it up to bring it here it sulked for about 3 years and refused to flower but now it is back to its full glory.
Mahonia ‘Winter Sun is still going strong.
And the pink flowers of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ look good.
The flowers of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ are a darker pink.
Much as I dislike January, I think February is an absolute delight and it will soon be here. The late afternoons will be light, the birds will be singing and there will be so many early spring blooms to delight us. February is Hellebore Heaven and galanthophiles like me can indulge our strange obsession. To keep me going until then Hellebore x ericsmithii ‘Shooting Star’ is showing promise.
Actually, if the garden is looking like Les Patterson it is because I need to get out there and do some serious tidying up. And so that is what I will do. Next month I will show you the winter garden which I made 2 years ago. It has filled out nicely and in 2 or 3 weeks it should be full of colour.
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at Maydreamgardens, do go over there and see what everyone else has in bloom at the gloomiest time of the year.