This is certainly Winter…Looking back at the Week in the Garden.

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!

32 thoughts on “This is certainly Winter…Looking back at the Week in the Garden.

  1. The Colletia spinosa is just to my taste and new to me. I will also be keeping a look out for Bergenia Irish Crimson, which is indeed a lovely foil for the primrose. I hope your dental woes are speedily resolved.

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    1. All will be well in the dental department very shortly; a temporary inconvenience. Many thanks. There is another colletia I have seen growing in gardens here and it has the most vicious foliage imaginable – not for a garden where children run about as it would do untold damage to anybody who ran into it. I should have mentioned – that Romneya is a fabulous plant. It can be difficult to establish but when established can romp away; a beautiful thing.

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  2. The snow drops look rather lovely in bud vases. If any of mine appear this year I may have to try that with a few, especially to see if I can detect their fragrance. My 80 something great aunt spends her life shouting and waving her arms at the pheasants in her garden determined that shouldn’t enjoy the food she puts out for the birds. She scares everything else off in the process.

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  3. I was remarking to my husband that we hadn’t seen many pheasants this year, although, as so often happens, one tried to headbutt my car on Wednesday, but I managed to avoid him. Pretty colours with your snowdrops and irises.

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  4. The freshness of the snowdrops and the earthiness of the vases make a lovely contrast. I lived in Algeria once (and wrote a lot about the country as a journalist) but don’t remember seeing the Algerian iris. It is very pretty indeed.

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  5. Fabulous photos of the snowdrops and iris in the little stoneware pots. I was just thinking how much I would like to paint them, and then I saw you finished your post with the link to that book of botanical illustrations. I’m feeling quite inspired.
    I think the jasmine looks good against the dark shed. It makes the most of its colour and rather lanky form.
    Sorry to hear about your dental woes, and I hope you are feeling better soon.

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    1. I was joint editor for one of the previous books by the Irish Society of Botanical Artists. I was chair of the Irish Garden Plant Society at the time and suggested a book on Irish garden cultivars. It was the most enjoyable experience and I got to meet many of the artists through that project and had the pleasure of seeing several plants from my own garden illustrated in that book – that was Plandaí Oidhreachta, Irish Heritage Plants. Dental problems will pass! Many thanks!

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  6. You must have been thrilled to be out in the garden again, and it sounds as if you were very busy catching up on the chores there. And just as well you got so much done before the artic blast arrived!
    You have an enviable Iris collection, and I do like the dainty flowers on the resurrection tree. I guess its shape is not conducive to releasing accumulated snow.
    I had no idea how beautiful your pheasants are! The darker outline to their feathers is lovely! I did enjoy the story of the clever hen who follows you and begs for food!

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    1. Thank you, Susan. Thankfully, we haven’t had any repeat of that snow since! It did a lot of damage at the time – the colletia and a 30 year old upright yew which I had to cut to the very base afterwards.

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  7. Lovely snowdrops Paddy and you’re right that they need to be brought indoors sometimes as the scent is really lovely. I was ticked off by someone on social media once who said it was unlucky to bring them indoors. I’m not superstitious though. So far I have G. ‘Early to Rize’ in flower as well as G. plicatus ‘Three Ships’.

    I like the resurrection plant by the way. Those flowers are rather charming.

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    1. Yes, there is the old saying of not bringing them indoors – but the same advice goes with a lot of flowers – and I take them in all the time to be able to enjoy them up close as the open fully in the heat of the house and release their fragrance. ‘Three Ships’ is up and in bud here with ‘Castlegar’, and ‘Mrs. Macnamara’. Wonderful plants to have in the middle of winter.

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  8. I wouldn’t mind if our winters here looked the same, so many flowers to enjoy! What a beautiful pairing of the primula alongside the bergenia, and of course the snowdrops are great.
    I agree that the shoe stealing slop of a rainy, muddy week is no incentive to garden, so I hope you enjoy a few more days or weeks of decent winter weather. Fingers crossed for enough sun to open the outside snowdrops!

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  9. Your snowdrop stems grouped with the iris makes a lovely painterly arrangement. I have winter flowering jasmine too and know how you feel, but mine is growing through cotoneaster which still has berries, and that helps its appearance. I should go out to the front and try to get some pics, shouldn’t I.

    I love the colour of your Bergenia ‘Irish Crimson’ it’s not a variety I know, but it looks great with the yellow primula.

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  10. I love the inkwells with flowers and wish I could find some (inkwells and flowers like that!). The Iris reminds me of one of my favorites natives from home, Iris cristata. Your pheasants seem quite exotic to me..

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  11. The inkwells were finds many years ago – on the bank of the river near us where they were, no doubt, dumped many years ago. I love Iris cristata and grow it in a trough here.

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  12. Hi Paddy, good read as always. It is positively Baltic again, hate cold winds, hard to work hard enough to keep warm! That Colletia is C, hystrix ‘Rosea’, the straight species is white flowered. I grew C paradoxa – where the ‘leaves’ are anchor shaped – at the zoo, lovely white scented flowers but you risked your nose getting near enough. Certainly stopped people climbing over a low fence into the restaurant decking!! TTFN Stephen Butler

    On Sat, 5 Dec 2020 at 06:44, Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener wrote:

    > Paddy Tobin posted: ” 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 a” >

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    1. Many thanks for that, Stephen. Yes, Colletia paradoxa is a frightfully vicious plant. By the way, I edited your comment above as you had added your home address and telephone number- or it was added automatically – and I thought you might not that information posted publically.

      Liked by 1 person

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