This January seems to be limping by with unparalleled bleakness . I have created a winter garden to give colour and pleasure though the long winter days, but now we are all under house arrest because of an out of control plague, counting the spots on your snowdrops is not the same, because you can’t share them with like-minded friends. And Pip who used to share my garden adventures is long gone.
Snowdrops have to be first on the list because they are the highlights of the season, bravely putting up with storms and snow. I have rather a lot of different snowdrops, but I know that people who don’t share my addiction will say that they are not different at all. I could go on at length about all my snowdrops and I very often do, but today I will show you just a few, so as not to bore those of you who are not affected with seasonal galanthomania.
Galanthus ‘Reverend Hailstone’ is the tallest one I have with the most enormous flowers.
And the green markings on the outer petals make ‘Corrin’ stand out from the crowd.
Galanthus ‘Mighty Atom’ is a justly popular one, it is nowhere near as big and substantial as the good Reverend Hailstone’ but it bulks up quickly to make nice clumps.
There will be more snowdrops in future posts but for now we will move on to number two which is something lovely in the greenhouse. I have a pot of serenely beautiful Narcisssus bulbodicum ‘Mary Poppins’. This is a creamy white hoop petticoat daffodil and you can see how it got its name, the flowers are just like little petticoats.
Coming in at number three we have hellebores. They do very well in my garden and seed everywhere so I have thousands. I have read that you should not let them seed because the seedlings will be inferior, but this is rubbish, I have never come across an ugly hellebore. But having them everywhere has its drawbacks when it comes to cutting off their leaves each year, Don’t try it on a windy day as they fly everywhere. It’s best done before the flowers emerge, otherwise you cut the flower stalks off too, as I did last week. Cutting off the leaves means your flowers stand out well. But the main reason for doing it is to protect the plants from the dreaded blackspot which often starts on the leaves and damages the plants. You should burn the leaves rather than composting them to prevent the spores of leaf spot spreading. The correct name is microsphaeropsis hellebori although you probably don’t want to know that, it’s not a word you can drop casually into conversation very often. Anyway here are just a few hellebores, there will be lots more before the end of the season.
The next one is Helleborus argutifolius which means ‘holly- leaved’. It used to be called Helleborus corsicus because that is where it comes from. I love it for its cup -shaped apple-green flowers.
Not all the plants in the winter garden are about flowers, many of them are grown for their interesting or colourful bark. Acer griseum is one of the most eye-catching of these. Who could resist this cinnamon-coloured peeling bark? I noticed last year that some of these trees in Angelsey Abbey winter garden had been peeled which destroyed the whole point of them. Having said this, I have been known to peel my birches but this is because it is a childish pleasure like popping fuchsia flowers, I don’t think it does them any harm, but it doesn’t do them any good either. Anyway, I wouldn’t dream of doing it to my Acer griseum.
Fragrance is one of the pleasures of the winter garden and I love the spicy scent of the sarcococcas. Sarcococca confusa has shiny green leaves all year round and deliciously scented, white flowers.
Sarcococca hookeriana var. Digyna is a suckering plant with tufts of fragrant creamy flowers and just as lovely.
I suppose these shrubs would be overlooked if it wasn’t for the amazing scent but they are useful for shady places all year . I would like a hedge of them like the one along the footpath to the car park at Anglesey Abbey but they are expensive to buy.
Last, but not least, I have to mention the witch hazels which are another winter passion of mine. I have quite a few, but not quite as many as Cathy at the Rambling in the Garden blog. But then nobody has quite as many as Cathy who has a passion for witches. Mine are all hybrids between the Chinese Hamamelis mollis and the Japanese Hamamelis japonica. They come in a wonderful range of flowers like spangled spiders. They have an elusive fragrance which is dispersed by the wind very quickly. If you bring a few sprigs into the house though, they smell delicious.
I have several yellow ones too but they always bloom a little later.
So January and pandemics may be depressing, but that doesn’t have to mean you have a gloomy garden. Actually, it does at the moment because it is snowing, but it won’t last long and in another post where I am not constrained by the number six ordained by the host of this meme, The Propagator, I will show you the winter garden. It may involve snowdrops, but at least you don’t have to get on your hands and knees as you would if you could come round the garden with me.