Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. January.

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 'Vesna'

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Vesna’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘ Livia’  has lovely wine- red flowers.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Livia'.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Livia’.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ has gorgeous coppery orange flowers.

Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena'

Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena’

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?

Hamamelis intermedia 'Orange Peel'

Hamamelis intermedia ‘Orange Peel’

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.

Sarcococca humilis var. digyna

Sarcococca humilis var. digyna

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.

I also have Chimonanthus praecox ‘Grandiflorus’ which has larger flowers but I don’t think it is as fragrant.

Mahonia ‘Winter Sun is still going strong.

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

And the pink flowers of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ look good.

Viburnum bodnantense 'Charles Lamont'

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’

The flowers of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ are a darker pink.

Viburnum bodnantense ''Dawn'

Viburnum bodnantense ”Dawn’

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.

And so is this one.
The January snowdrops are fully open. And there are plenty more to come very soon.

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.

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48 Responses to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. January.

  1. susurrus says:

    You’re right – ‘Orange Peel’ will look wonderful beside the grass. I’m a fan of Hellebore x ericsmithii, though I’m not familiar with the cultivar, so will wait in eager anticipation for it to open.

  2. What a good idea, the sharp winter tones of the pheasant tail grass sets the flowers off beautifully – works well with multi coloured cornus too, plus when the shrubs are in relatively nondescript leaf the grass takes over …. What a splendid and inspiring collection, ‘Livia’ has such a rich red colour too.

  3. Candy says:

    I love your Hamamelis! and notice that you are gardening in possibly the same part of Suffolk as I am?

  4. Christina says:

    I do agree that scent in the garden is the best part of winter.

  5. Anna says:

    I think that Les Patterson is perhaps more akin to the grisly month of November when all starts to go rapidly downhill. Your January garden has made me smile Chloris. Your new witch hazel is a beauty and what a perfect partner you’ve found for it. I’m most smitten by ‘Livia’ too.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, November has to be the worst month, with all the plants collapsing into mush and the whole of winter to come. But my garden is still looking very unkempt and the ground is frozen solid so I can’ t do much about it. The witch hazels are a joy at the moment.

  6. Cathy says:

    You are so right – the orange Hamamelis and the orangey grass go perfectly together. I am rather envious of your blooms for January, even if you feel the garden is scruffy. At least the snow here covers up any signs of scruffiness! 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      Ah yes, snow covers a multitude of sins. We haven’ t had much snow here, but day after day of hard frosts. Still as you say there are still plenty of blooms to cheer.

  7. After reading the introduction to your post, you surprised me with all you have going on in your garden right now. I admire the witch hazels and wish I could grow them here but no degree of zonal denial on my part would permit that. I’m impressed by all the scented flowers you have too – that’s something I need to pay more attention to in making my own plant selections.

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Boy, you’d really hate New England! We’ll have freezing temps well into April and no springs delights until then. 😉 I do love your vernal witch hazels and must look for one or two that might take the cold we have (our native one is autumn-flowering). From where I stand your garden looks delightful, Chloris!

  9. Brian Skeys says:

    I was thinking as I was reading this, I thought you had planted a winter garden Chloris. Surely that will encourage you out into the garden in January. Although I do agree with you it is more comfortable to stay inside writing and reading garden blogs.

    • Chloris says:

      Indeed I have planted a winter garden Brian. I start to really enjoy it in February and to my shame I haven’ t finished tidying it up yet. All will be revealed next month.

  10. mrsdaffodil says:

    I agree with you 100% about snow – I hate the stuff, too! It’s been freezing here and the only things blooming in my garden are three snowdrops, all slightly malformed. I must agree with other comments you’ve received – your garden looks delightful!

  11. germac4 says:

    My garden is starting to look like Les Paterson in the middle of our hot summer … Keep him with you!

  12. rusty duck says:

    Ahhh, witch hazels. And snowdrops. What else is January for?

  13. Bodger says:

    Les Patterson had a beautiful soul beneath the big teeth and food stains. Your witch hazels are lovely and won’t grow for me (dry sandy soil) but Lonicera fragrantissima (winter flowering honeysuckle) is perfuming the crisp air. The days are getting longer, it will soon be spring.

    • Chloris says:

      A beautiful soul? Are we talking about the same Les Patterson? A pity you can’ t grow witch hazels. But winter flowering honeysuckles are a delight too. Yes, the afternoons are getting lighter, it is February next week and soon we will have hellebores.

  14. Flighty says:

    I sympathise, and know how you feel at this time of year. I don’t like snow either. Thankfully all is not lost when we have witch hazels and snowdrops to enjoy. xx

  15. croftgarden says:

    Chloris, I’d love to be able to look out at even a straggly witch hazel. The garden is wrapped in a wet blanket of fog, but at least I can’t see the beds scoured by the wind and a tangled mess of limp dead foliage. But the days are getting longer and the sun will appear eventually

  16. I must find out who Les Patterson is?! Otherwise, the Witch Hazels are lovely and I wish I could have a sniff. I like all of them. I remember Wintersweet, I always wanted one, but they are difficult to find and now I am wayy too far south. Two weeks til Snowdrop extravaganza begins

    • Chloris says:

      Les Patterson is the revoltingly crude and disgusting alter ego of the Australian comedian Barry Humphries who is more well known as Dame Edna Everage. Oh yes, witch hazels are divine as are all the gloriously scented blooms of winter. Indeed , it won’ t be long before galanthophiles like me are drooling endlessly over snowdrops and making everyone else glassy- eyed with boredom.

  17. snowbird says:

    You do make me laugh!The thought of your January garden being compared to an uncouth man is hysterical!
    Oh, just loving your witch hazels, I’m hooked on the things, the flowers have me hypnotized. I’m waiting for my yellow ones to do their glorious thing. Orange peel is a beauty, fancy it smelling of oranges.
    My winter box is out and so fragrant, it is a lovely winter jewel.
    With all that blooming, you have NO right not to go outdoors, despite the fog, frost or grotty grim days, I’d be racing around like a puppy in a butcher

    • Chloris says:

      Well I do go out but as the ground is frozen solid I can’ t do anything and I am desperate to get it tidied up. I don’ t know whether Orange Peel does smell of oranges, that is probably the power of the name and the colour. But it smells very sweet.

  18. Oh, you would not like my garden in winter. Yours is fertile and full of life by my standards. I would say mine is a lovely winter wonderland, but lately it’s a gray, icy mess! But I so enjoyed your intro, because that’s how I feel about winter, too. Happy GBBD!

  19. bittster says:

    ‘Orange Peel’ is awesome and I am looking forward to seeing the winter garden. I will also have to keep your Christmas tree math in mind this coming spring, since I didn’t realize the purchase of an artificial tree several years ago had left us with such a windfall of plant buying dollars!
    You’ve been able to round up quite a few goodies for a mid January bloom day, if you want true discouragement come around here. Snow is actually a relief to the endless brown.
    Also I agree that four c’s is excessive.

    • Chloris says:

      You might have lots of brown but what could be lovelier than your cinnamon brown Acer griseum? I am hopeless at maths but I am always good at this sort of calculation. So if you need any help with it I am the person to come to. Of course your years of an artificial tree can buy you as many snowdrops as you need. And I think you need H.Orange Peel too.

  20. Annette says:

    My dear Liz, you made me chuckle with your intro. You certainly don’t have a reason to despair being surrounded by all these flowers. Siberian chill has us firmly in its grip today: I too hate January and Februar, the latter being the longest month of the year (oh yes, it is!!!) but your post is so delightful and it made me forget the harsh reality. Be brave, we’ll get to spring eventually. As my gardening friend Liz (another Liz) says, let’s go into lazy mode and move closer to the stove – it all has its advantages! xx

    • Chloris says:

      It is very cold here but sunny. But gardening is not possible with the ground frozen sold. But I love February. The days get lighter and the birds sing and at last we will have hellebores and snowdrops and all the other early spring treasures.

  21. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I agree with you about the gloom of January! Les Patterson and the garden both look like they had a little too much fun on new years eve. thank goodness you’ve so many winter-blooming beauties to make this dark time of year bearable.

  22. Cathy says:

    Like everyone else I love your description of a January garden, Chloris! 🙂 You have such lovely cultivars of different plants in your garden which helps us lesser mortals to expand our horizons – I remember being taken with with this less common 4cs shrub when you showed it before and I wonder whether I could squeeze one into my shrub border… I am pleased to hear that you have added to your witch hazel collection – I like Orange Peel too but she is one of the newest and certainly the smallest of mine so yours probably looks even more splendid 🙂

  23. I didn’t notice the egg, your witch hazels bowled me over. Fingers crossed I can find ‘Orange Peel’ here. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a camellia bloom or two when I finally get home tomorrow.

  24. Oh! I am swooning over your witch hazels. My H. virginiana seems humdrum by comparison.

  25. Lavinia Ross says:

    Witch Hazel is a welcome sight. I used to live near a stand of wild ones that bloomed in autumn back in Connecticut. Modest yellow flowers, but still beautiful. The E. E. Dickinson Company which manufactures witch hazel is back there.

  26. I don’t even have a Hamamelis (yet?). Your hellebores look very promising!

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