I think I have already said in this blog that I think it is important to have something to look forward to each month in the garden. Something that makes your heart beat faster and that you anticipate with delight. When I mentioned this to my friend Anne, she said, ‘Well, what about December?’ She is quite right, December is a tricky one. Yesterday we woke up to this.
You might wonder what could be looking good after this? Well, there are blooms still out there and in particular my much anticipated little special Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’. This little rarity is usually my Christmas treat and I watch anxiously every day to see if the buds will open in time. Some years it just misses, but when the flowers do open they last for weeks and are quite undeterred by bad weather. Yes, I do grow it outside. This year it broke all records by opening up its buds on 28th November.
This is a diminutive little daffodil, but perfectly formed. It is tricky too. For some reason it is particularly susceptible to narcissus fly and over the years I have lost quite a few clumps which appeared to be flourishing one year and then disappeared without trace. It is difficult to get hold off and if you do track it down it is always expensive. I wrote here about its history and how it was found in the Pyrenees by a friend of Cedric Morris. He ripped up the whole clump and nobody seemed to be appalled by the vandalism. In those days you could still wander the planet helping yourself to the native flora.
Jasminum nudiflorum, winter jasmine doesn’t set the pulse racing and I don’t appreciate it as I should. After all, it flowers prolifically and covers itself in bloom But it has no scent and a jasmine should smell wonderful. And it is ubiquitous and roots wherever it touches the ground. Is it perhaps the plant snob in me that makes me rather contemptuous of it? Perhaps if it was rare I would be overwhelmed by a cascade of sunshine yellow in December. It grows on the south-facing front of my house, not because I planted it in such a privileged position, but my predecessor did and I have been too idle to dig it out. Perhaps I will let it stay. Exuberance such as this is rare in the December garden.
Again in yellow, blooming with happy abandon I have mahonias all round the garden. The previous owner must have been inordinately fond of them. I have dug some up but they are fiendishly hard to get rid of and I do love them when they start blooming in November and filling the garden with the scent of lily of the valley. The most fragrant mahonia is Mahonia japonica which blooms in early spring here. The ones in bloom now are labelled ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’. I cannot see any difference at all between the two. I quite like the spiky, evergreen foliage even when they are not in bloom they add structure to the garden. To make them bushy they do need to be cut down after flowering to just above a knobbly bud. If you don’t cut them down you get tall, spindly bushes like these. Look how leggy they are.
The next one is cut down each year; it is bushy and its knobbly legs are decently covered.
The flowers are held in erect racemes .
But maybe all this yellow is a bit too unrefined for your taste. I have several friends who say they won’t have yellow in the garden. I think they are missing out on a lot of beauties. But nobody could find the delicate blossoms of the winter-flowering cherry Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ vulgar. I have the pink version too but this one blooms much earlier.
This tree will bloom sporadically right through the winter into early spring. If I only had room for one cherry tree this would be it.
I was astonished to see chunky, cinnamon brown buds on my Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex‘ this year. It has never bloomed before and I don’t suppose it will bloom now that winter has set in.
But still the buds are very eye- catching and they survived yesterday’s snow.
I started with a special treasure and I will finish with another. It is my autumn- flowering snowdrop Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’. This is not blooming early or out of season, it starts flowering every year in November and carries on in December. It is always a lovely moment when the first snowdrops of the season come into bloom. In my garden they start off in October with Galanthus Reginae-olgae and then on Armistice day there is Galanthus ‘Remember, Remember’. I am ashamed to say that even with a name like that I forgot to check ‘Remember, Remember’ and I missed the best of it. But never mind, I am not going to miss ‘Barnes’ and I go down the garden to gloat over it every day.
So there we have it, six plants to keep me enjoying the December garden. I hope you enjoy them too. Do go over to the Propagator to find the many and varied things horticultural that the multitude of devotees of ‘Six on Saturday’ are finding to enjoy. now it is December.