Waterford, southeast Ireland, 5th December 2020
Winter weather has certainly come in with a blast over the last week. Earlier in the week, this change in weather was very welcome, a longed-for improvement from the heavy wet conditions we had for so long. It was great to be able to work in the garden again without squelching about in mud and without doing damage to grass areas – going into flowerbeds had been completely out of the question as the damage caused would have outweighed any work done.
We had several full days in the garden this week, an opportunity to catch up on the traditional autumn/winter maintenance jobs. Leaf-collecting continued on grass areas with leaf-blowing around the house and there are signs that we are approaching the end of leaf work for this year as we have strong winds today which should clear those last hangers on. Hellebores have all, but one or two, been cut back. This is perhaps a little earlier than usual but the mild weather has brought the flowers into bud so clearing the old foliage was necessary to allow them show well and for us to enjoy them. Sedums, asters, phlox, cannas and gingers have all been cut back also. We leave the cannas and gingers in the ground, usually with a mulch of garden compost to give a little protection from frost but we also have some in pots as a back-up and insurance against losses should we get a very harsh winter. We haven’t lost any since the particularly cold winter of 2010/11.
The weather has hardly been warm this week and this cutting-down work is so very cold on the hands that I have taken to wearing two pairs of gloves – a light and tight pair for heat and a larger waterproof pair for added protection. It has helped but I lasted only two hours on Thursday afternoon before retreating indoors so painful were my fingers. Gardening was out of the question on Friday as an Arctic blast came across the country with snow further north and a bitter wind with sleet hit us here in the southeast. It was a day for the indoors with time to bake bread and make a batch of granola!
Colour in the garden is becoming more and more scarce as the winter progresses but there are some spots of interest there still:
Snowdrops are popping up all over the garden but they refuse to open their flowers unless the temperature rises above 10C and that didn’t happen in this past week so I resorted to bringing a few flowers indoors where they open in the heat of the house and, something often not noticed in the cool outdoors, they give off their fragrance. Iris unguicularis is a regular companion of the snowdrops indoors.
The Algerian iris, Iris unguicularis, sends up flowers whenever we have a slightly milder day over the winter. The slugs simply love them and they are also a very delicate flower so I pick them as soon as they appear and bring them indoors to open where we can enjoy them without danger from slugs or frost or wind. I grow three cultivars: ‘Mary Barnard’, ‘Walter Butt’ and ‘Kilbroney Marble’.
A gardening friend used refer to this plant as “The Resurrection Tree” for, as she would say, anybody who fell into it would be sure to rise again very quickly! This is Colletia spinosa though another name is Colletia horrida! The name gives away much of its features – it is certainly spiny and quite horrid. However, I have kept it in the garden despite its peculiarities and even despite the fact that it was badly broken by a heavy snowfall. It has begun to recover again, putting on new growth and is even in flower at the moment – very small flowers, hardly noticeable but I guess, it’s trying its best.
The winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, has come into flower. I suppose it is to be appreciated, flowering as it does at this time of the year but it just doesn’t set my heart aflame. I have it planted on the back of the garden shed, hardly a prime position but it suits its status in my mind!
In this cold weather we are conscious of feeding the local birds. There are birdfeeders with peanuts, Nyger seed and fat-balls but the pheasants are my special joy. There seems to have been some dispersal in the last while and we presently have four hens and one cock who are with us every day. Three of the hens are of one family and one is an aunt of theirs. She is the clever one, or the silly one for she acts in a silly manner regularly, hopping about in a funny way, dashing to left and right without reason etc. However, she is clever enough to never go hungry for she runs to the kitchen door when she sees me opening the curtains in the morning and moving down the house towards the kitchen. If I am so horrible as to forget her, she will follow me about and give little begging calls. She, and the others, are fed with rolled barley though I give her a pinch of peanuts which she adores.
And, finally for this week, a cultivar of cowslip which has come into flower over the past while. This is Primula ‘June Blake’ – from June Blake’s garden in Blessington, Co. Wicklow, and it is growing here with Bergenia ‘Irish Crimson’ which provides a nice background and contrast to the yellow flowers.
Finally, I’d like to recommend this book to you. Sceitse has been published recently by the Irish Society of Botanical Artists.
I’m sharing this blog with a group of fellow bloggers who contribute to a “Six on Saturday” theme which is hosted by “The Propagator” on his blog site. To read more contributions to the Six on Saturday theme go to The Propagator’s entry for today, scroll down to the comments and you will find other bloggers have posted links to their Saturday entries there. Lots to read!