I missed GBBD this year which is on the 15th of the month. But I can’t let the month go by without celebrating some of the prettiest and most fragrant blooms of the year. The best, the most gorgeous, the most fragrant, the most exquisite, plus all the superlatives you can think of, is the queen of the garden, Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’. The scent all around her would make you swoon.
There are other winter- flowering daphnes, for instance Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ smells divine too. But it doesn’t have the masses of flowers that Jacqueline sports and it is a low growing shrub whereas Jacqueline grows to from 6 to 12 foot tall; mine is about 6 foot at the moment and I worship every inch of her. The only drawback to these aristocrats of the garden is that they can suffer from sudden and inexplicable death.
There is even a little native woodland daphne which crops up all over my garden uninvited. I allow it to stay though because it is useful for shade, it has glossy, evergreen leaves and pretty little flowers in winter.
I have been excessive in my praise of ‘Jaqueline Postill’, but I also have a gorgeous, small, February-flowering tree which is expensive, but well worth breaking into the piggy bank for. It is stunning with dark carmine-pink, fragrant blossom. It is the Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’.
Whilst we are talking about winter -flowering trees I have to include the daintyflowered Prunus subhirtella autumnalis ‘Rosea’ which is a bit of a mouthful for such a prettily uncomplicated flower. It is very long-lasting and I much prefer it to the blowsy, pink- knicker blooms of the spring-flowering cherry trees such as the awful ‘Kanzan’
There are lovely shrubs in bloom now too. Most of us have the fragrant winter -flowering honeysuckle. I have several including this Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’.
In my eyes, even more beautiful, is the rather rare, Lonicera elisae. It has long, tubular flowers which are just tinged with pink.
Many of the Witch Hazels which delighted us through the winter have finished flowering now. For some reason my Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ which should be long gone, is very late blooming this year, so I still have the pleasure of its lovely primrose yellow flowers.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is always the last one to bloom and it extends the witch hazel season .
Catkins are looking lovely at the moment. I have a lovely black salix which has red -anthered black catkins which start off looking like black claws. It is called Salix melanostachys.
All the winter-flowering beauties got off to a slow start this year. The diminutive, but perfectly formed Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’ is often in bloom for Christmas, or early January at the latest. This year it waited until early February and is still looking lovely now.
As it is so late, it is overlapping with early daffs such as the January-flowering ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’.
Pretty little ‘Spring Dawn’ is always early in February.
As it is February I have to mention the ‘S’ word, but I will try and make it snappy as I know plenty of bloggers think snowdrops are quite pretty, but basically, just little white bells which are best looked at en masse, rather than brooded over obsessively. Even as a galanthophile I think there are too many introductions that are so similar that you need a magnifying glass to tell them apart. If you grow plenty of Galanthus elwesii you will find plenty of variations. Even the common Galanthus nivalis has significant variations. As my garden is very old, I have carpets of snowdrops. Amongst the nivalis I have found a diminutive one with a long bent pedicle like a small ‘Magnet’ and I have found some with green on the outer petals which look a variety of ‘viridipice’. I even have a green tipped one with long bunny ears like Galanthus sharlockii.
OK, stop yawning at the back there, I will just show you some really distinctive ones and then we will say no more about them until next year.
Being a total snowdrop anorak, I have a lot of Greatorex doubles, but to be honest those Shakespearean heroines and their chums all look alike. My favourite is ‘Washfield Titania’ which came from Elizabeth Strangman’s wonderful nursery.
There are some lovely yellow snowdrops, that is ones with yellow ovaries and markings. My favourites are ‘Madelaine,’ ‘Wendy’s Gold’ and ‘Spindlestone Surprise’
Some snowdrops have very distinctive markings, like Galanthus ‘Two Eyes’.
‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Little John’ both have a distinctive cross.
And then there are the coveted snowdrops with green markings on their petals. I have ‘Trymlet’ and ‘Corrin’.
Most of the Galanthus plicatus hybrids are late flowering and so still to come. One that blooms now is the delightful ‘Augustus’, named after E.A.Bowles. It has lovely plump flowers.
For plump snowdrop flowers, they don’t come any plumper than ‘Diggory’. I just love the unmistakable Diggory with his seersucker petals. For all those of you who think all snowdrops look alike, just look at him.
Another snowdrop which is quite distinctive and soon spreads to make lovely carpets is Galanthus woronowii, it has shiny, apple green leaves.
Right, enough with the snowdrops, I have delighted you long enough, as you might remember Mr Bennet saying to his daughter Mary, when she showed no sign of stopping playing the piano any time that day, in Pride and Prejudice. Like Mary, I could go and on about snowdrops, but I won’t.
But I will just mention lovely Leucojum vernum which looks a bit like a snowdrop but isn’t. The flowers are like little lampshades or pixie hats if you have a whimsical turn of mind. The tips of the flowers are green.
You can get one with yellow tips called Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum. If you look carefully at the next picture you will see that some of the flowers are pure white with no colour on the tips at all. I found one single flower like this and grew it on. I shall weed out the ones with slight colour on their tips and hopefully I will soon have a sizeable clump of pure white ones.
I haven’t even started on the hellebores. And believe me, I am a hellebore bore. But I will spare you the commentary, I will just make a gallery of some of them.
The weather has been awful this month apart from a couple of warm days. We have had wind and rain and Storm Doris petulantly throwing my fences and birch trees about.
There have been days when I haven’t felt like going into the garden. But whatever the weather the blooms of February are a constant source of delight. The aconites are beginning to go over now but they are being replaced by ever more crocuses opening up. Little reticulated irises and Cyclamen coum are everywhere. I think another gallery will show them off best.
I will finish with some views of the winter garden whilst it is still winter. I made this garden two years ago and it’s jut beginning to mature.